Students at a South Carolina preparatory academy were allegedly told they could not perform instrumental versions of Christmas songs like “Joy to the World” because it might lead to lawsuits.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm specializing in religious liberty cases, said York Preparatory Academy has a policy banning religious music at holiday performances – even if the music is instrumental.
ADF attorney Rory Gray said the academy’s band director gave older students a choice of musical selections for the upcoming winter concert.
“The students chose two songs that included the melodies from Joy to the World and Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” Gray said.
But the band director allegedly excluded the songs based on a warning that groups similar to the American Civil Liberties Union would be monitoring holiday concerts in South Carolina schools for possible constitutional violations.
“The Academy’s principal confirmed the receipt of the ACLU’s or similar group’s communication and suggested that in order for students to play traditional Christmas carols they would need to play songs from other religions as well,” Gray said.
Gray called that requirement “fundamentally misguided.”
“The Academy’s policy of intentionally excluding band arrangements with melodies from religious Christmas carols, regardless of the music’s demonstrated cultural value and educational merit, shows impermissible hostility toward religion,” he said.
The York Preparatory Academy principal did not return my calls seeking comment.
“Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow bands to play the music to time-honored Christmas carols like this,” Gray said. “School districts can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions.”
Attorney Gray advised the academy that they should “not be intimidated by threats from groups like the ACLU.” And he’s calling on school leaders to reverse the ban.
And should a group threaten to sue the school – ADF said they would be happy to defend the Academy free of charge.
Public schools in New Jersey and Wisconsin reversed similar bans this year after public outcry and letters from the ADF explaining the legality of the Christmas carols.