Church makes arrangements for students to perform musical after religious complaints

Published: May. 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2014 at 1:04 PM CDT
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LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - The 5th graders at an East Texas school are making last minute changes to their musical program after religious complaints.

Lindale Independent School District was contacted Monday by the Freedom from Religion Foundation about a music program scheduled at E.J. Moss Intermediate school on Thursday evening. The foundation said they were representing the parent of a 5th grade student.

According to Elizabeth Cavell, the staff attorney for the foundation, the program violated the First Amendment, which guarantees a separation between church and state.

"Most of the spoken lines and a lot of the musical numbers violate the First Amendment of the constitution because those portions of the program were a pretty clear advancement and endorsement of a particular religion," says Cavell.

The foundation, which is based in Madison, WI, received notice of the program from a concerned parent.

In a letter to the school district, the foundation demanded that the district cancel the program and "investigate the music curriculum at E.J. Moss Intermediate School to ensure the school is not impermissibly promotion religion or indoctrinating students."

According to the FFRF, the students were to say lines including, "What you have heard today helps explain why the founding fathers of our nation believed and trusted in God," "Our country's freedom was bought by the struggles, tears and the blood of Jesus Christ," and "The dream was to have a place where they could freely proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Cavell says, "It's absolutely inappropriate to teach 5th grade students to memorize those lines and then to perform them at a public school performance."

On Wednesday, E.J. Moss Intermediate sent a letter to parents and students to let them know that, after consulting school attorneys, they found that the program was not in compliance with state and federal curriculum guidelines. Principal Lori Anderson went on to say that adjustments were made to the program in order for the program to meet the guidelines.

"We realize this program is a treasured part of our community and a tradition at E.J. Moss Intermediate School, however the Lindale Independents School District wants to respect the values, opinions and religious freedoms of all families and therefore we must make modifications to the program," said Anderson in the letter.

Pastor Tom Buck, of the First Baptist Church in Lindale, was particularly disappointed to hear an out-of-state organization had impacted the school program was being altered.

"I've spoken with parents and with students who's entire performance was being eliminated," says Buck.

Buck says religious freedom should be discussed but the program should not be squashed.

In response to the program's changes, the church is renting the Performing Arts Center at Lindale High School so the entire musical can be performed by any students who choose to participate. They'll be paying the full price to rent the building. That performance will be held on Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m.

"Lets encourage our children, allowing them to finish what they worked hard on and lets come out and support them. Not just religious liberty, but lets support our children and just make this a wonderful evening for them," says Buck.

The revised program will be held on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m. in the E.J. Moss Auditorium.

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