The Freedom From Religion Foundation has too much time on its hands.
The atheist group’s latest crusade: banning the use of George Frideric Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in a music class at Linden Elementary School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The “Hallelujah Chorus” is part of German-born composer Handel’s oratorio, “Messiah,” which premiered in 1742. The text is compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the "Book of Common Prayer." It is one of the most famous choral works in Western music.
In the Tennessee Oak Ridger, Ben Pounds reports that Aleta Ledendecker, president of the East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said she received complaints from two parents about a teacher playing Handel. Ledendecker then emailed Linden Principal Roger Ward about the issue. “No legal action has been taken,” Pounds writes.
“Please see that the music director makes appropriate choices for broadcasting to your student body beginning immediately,” Ledendecker stated in an email. “Furthermore, please reply with a report of the actions you have taken to assure that there will be no future music choices with even a hint of religious overtones.”
In a telephone interview with the Oak Ridger, Ledendecker said she is still looking into whether any legal violations occurred. “While this music may be beautiful and even inspirational for Christians, it is not acceptable for broadcasting to the entire student body at Linden Elementary. In consideration of all the possible choices of music, this piece with its distinctly religious content can be interpreted as proselytizing. Such actions are clearly prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
In his response, Linden principle Ward explained the context of the selection.
“Our music teacher uses a historical basis in her classroom and as a part selects a composer of the week. Handel has been the composer that students are studying for the past 3 days and will continue to be the composer for the next 2.”
Ward added that Handel’s music is on a small fraction of the music used in the class over the course of the school year, and that most of the other selections are not religious.
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