Well, Jay, we didn’t agree about holding graduations in churches. It looks like we won’t agree on what students can say or do at graduation, either.
Songs which mention God are usually called “hymns.” Hymns are prayers set to music. Prayers should not be a part of a public junior high graduation ceremony. Although the facts you relate in your post about the California case are pretty sparse, it seems completely appropriate for the school to veto inclusion of a “song [that] mentions God” at the event. (Frankly, I’d prefer never to see tap dancing on general principle, but the First Amendment wouldn’t allow a government body to bar such performances all together.)
Now, let’s look at a few other possibilities. Should a toe-tapper be allowed to perfom a song by my pal Roy Zimmerman, which pokes fun at religion? No, because schools are supposed to be strictly neutral on this topic. Should a student speaker be able to turn his or her graduation address into a sermon warning that any audience members who don’t convert to Christianity that night will burn in hell for eternity? No, if such a speech is known to be coming, school officials have every right and responsibility to instruct the student that this is inappropriate. Now, should that student be able to thank Uncle Ralph, his mother, and Jesus for helping him through high school? There, I’d say “no big deal.” That really is a personal observation only.
So, let’s see the lyrics of your California tap dancer’s tune. If it is the modern hymn it sounds like, it has to go. If “God” is some fleeting reference (a spiritiual equivalent to John Lennon’s line in “Imagine” that notes “imagine no religion”) maybe the student should be cut some slack. Only upon seeing all the facts will we know if this is censorship or a commonsense action by a school that understands the First Amendment.
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