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← A lawsuit too far?

A lawsuit too far? - Comments

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 1 by Tyler Durden

The possibly-religious songs include "Thank You for the World So Sweet," which says "Thank you God for everything," "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," which says "I pray the Lord my soul to keep," "Michael Row your Boat Ashore" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Possibly-religious, hello?

We sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" in my Catholic primary school for one reason, and one reason only.

"[the songs] were used appropriately to teach musical concepts," said Kathryn McCary, the school district's attorney.

Pull the other one, Kathryn, it plays Jingle Bells.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 12:11:55 UTC | #950872

Jay G's Avatar Comment 2 by Jay G

Comment 1 by Tyler Durden :

The possibly-religious songs include "Thank You for the World So Sweet," which says "Thank you God for everything," "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," which says "I pray the Lord my soul to keep," "Michael Row your Boat Ashore" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Possibly-religious, hello?

We sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" in my Catholic primary school for one reason, and one reason only.

"[the songs] were used appropriately to teach musical concepts," said Kathryn McCary, the school district's attorney.

Pull the other one, Kathryn, it plays Jingle Bells.

But even the die-hard atheists like Dan Dennett enjoy overtly religious songs. I've heard Dennett say that he continues to sing Christmas songs every year at Christmas time. Now I realize he's an adult and can separate the religious message from the music, but presumably he sang these songs as a kid and they might have had meaning for him at that time. So even if little kids are taught these religious songs now, that's no guarantee they will be immune to a rational mind-set later on.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 12:49:28 UTC | #950873

Sterwick's Avatar Comment 3 by Sterwick

I think lawsuits such as these give the wrong impression. Political correctness annoys a lot of people, including many of the atheists I know.

,

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 12:49:47 UTC | #950874

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 4 by Tyler Durden

Comment 2 by Jay G :

So even if little kids are taught these religious songs now, that's no guarantee they will be immune to a rational mind-set later on.

True. However, look at what McCary, the school district's attorney, is claiming:

"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" is used appropriately to teach musical concepts. Do you know this particular song? It's repetition upon repetition.

The school could easily have used "10 Green Bottles" instead, if their goal was to teach the musical concept of repetition, and symmetry, in motifs and hooks.

Sadly, this has nothing to do with "teaching musical concepts", it's blatant religious indoctrination.

And, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with religiously-inspired music. I recently attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Incredible. And have also enjoyed Handel's Messiah in Christ Church Cathedral around Christmas time.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:33:10 UTC | #950878

Sjoerd Westenborg's Avatar Comment 5 by Sjoerd Westenborg

Reminds me a bit of the discussion we had over this case, though that was much more severe than a few god-references in music class.

I think it depends on how the content of the song is handled. Does the teacher focus on the musical aspects and not give a 30 minute speech on the god related lyrics while glossing over the others? Then I see no problem.

Are the songs used as an excuse to give a sermon, is a majority of the songs religious in nature or are the only religious references Christian... mweh better call the FFRF.

Also good to see Donohue play the persecution card again. And saying we are 'going after the children'. The man is priceless.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:34:29 UTC | #950879

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 6 by SaganTheCat

i agree this is a lawsuit too far. there may well be some cynical motivation behind the choise but we should all accept that a large number of tunes we all know have words that suggest there's such a thing as god.

it should be considered unfortunate. unfortunate that these might get picked, unfortunate that outside of the narrow sub-genre of black metal there is a shocking deficit in songs written to praise satan (which might offer some balance), very few praising allah (they don't like music do they?) and not nearly enough songs about science.

the fact is though, songs about jebus make unsubstansiated claims about reality which must be considered. it should be pointed out that songs are catchy and easy to remember, and therefore very healthy memes but the information they hold should not be taught as fact, which i asusme wouldn't happen in a music lesson.

Wagner wrote some crackers about a guy called Siegfried, ok to get emotionally involved with the theme but don't make any life changing decisions based on it.

equally, any song, made in the first person, making confident predictions on the future must be treated as poetic license, so regardless of the words in any song i might sing, i may actually go off you one day, i may not have considered every event in my life when deciding you were the best thing that happened, and indeed people may not live underwater in the year 3000

that said, i accept if religious songe can be sung in school, so can advertising jingles

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:35:45 UTC | #950880

Daniel Williams's Avatar Comment 7 by Daniel Williams

Comment 4 by Tyler Durden :

Comment 2 by Jay G :

So even if little kids are taught these religious songs now, that's no guarantee they will be immune to a rational mind-set later on.

True. However, look at what McCary, the school district's attorney, is claiming:

"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" is used appropriately to teach musical concepts. Do you know this particular song? It's repetition upon repetition.

The school could easily have used "10 Green Bottles" instead, if their goal was to teach the musical concept of repetition, and symmetry, in motifs and hooks.

Sadly, this has nothing to do with "teaching musical concepts", it's blatant religious indoctrination.

And, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with religiously-inspired music. I recently attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Incredible. And have also enjoyed Handel's Messiah in Christ Church Cathedral around Christmas time.

Actually I think 10 green bottles and the whole world are sung to the same tune...

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 14:23:08 UTC | #950883

silverspirit2001's Avatar Comment 8 by silverspirit2001

In this case, it depends on context - which is why a Judge does need to evaluate it. If the songs are being used to promote religion, then it is wrong. If it is just part of music lessons, then it is fine. The problem is drawing the distinction.

Not knowing the particulars, did the parents ask the school to change the lyrics? Or sing different songs? Why are those songs better than others? Is it part of a tradition to learn these songs? I know 3 of the 4 songs, so they evidently are widespread classics.

More information is needed to make a judgment, but if the school was not prepared to talk, then it does become an issue, rightly needing judicial overview - because then, it smacks of indoctrination.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 14:40:38 UTC | #950884

yuriicide's Avatar Comment 9 by yuriicide

As much as I find religion and religious "education" ridiculous, a lawsuit like this is terribly desperate and stupid. It's just music class and if some silly children's songs are going to get on some atheists nerves, they need to get slapped in the face.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 15:26:41 UTC | #950889

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 10 by The Jersey Devil

Reminds me a bit of the discussion we had over this case, though that was much more severe than a few god-references in music class.

I thought of that discusion as well. It was regarding an ugly little monument in a public parking lot and I came down on the side of leaving well enough alone.

This one is different. It involves children in an public educational environment. It's completely inapropriate for a public school to be teaching children religous songs under any circumstance.

Besides, there are plenty of secular songs that can be used to teach kids. I remember singing 'Row Your Boat' with the musical concept being taught was singing in the round. It was quite fun, as I remember.

====

You hit the nail on the head about Donahue. What a jerk.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 15:27:03 UTC | #950890

Sample's Avatar Comment 11 by Sample

I'm a member of the FFRF and I agree with silverspirit2001 and others calling for more investigation. Would the songs be tolerated by Sikhs or Jews? But that's beside the point. This is a potential 1st Amendment violation. I went to both public and private schools and it would have been down right weird to be singing religious songs in public school. I'm incredulous that the teacher is telling the whole truth but happy to be shown otherwise.

Mike

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 16:22:20 UTC | #950893

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 12 by DocWebster

My daughter was in choir at school and they did religion based music quite often. I don't think it's any more cause for alarm than to make the poor kids sing something from the latest talentless flavor of the month. To be honest I think music teachers are trying to stay away from music that might have some royalty problems so they do hymns to skirt that potential pitfall.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 16:46:34 UTC | #950897

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 13 by ZenDruid

I think there is good cause if all of the music in the program is religious in nature.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 16:59:22 UTC | #950898

Quine's Avatar Comment 14 by Quine

No, it is not too far. It is the job of the FFRF to complain about anything brought to their attention that may be a violation of law. It is not their job to determine if it is a violation; that is the job of the Court system. They mostly win, but will sometimes lose. If they never lost, you would suspect that they were being too conservative and did not press some cases in the gray area.

Of course, the other side is going to see it as overreach and evidence of a "war on religion" and start fanning out a whole deck of victim cards. Sorry, but because of our adversarial legal system and the position of the FFRF in that system, that characterization is unavoidable.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 20:06:23 UTC | #950901

Roedy's Avatar Comment 15 by Roedy

You have to leave out Bach and Mozart. You go back even 100 years all the composers were believers.

Modern Christian music causes nausea. It is like distilled insincerity.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 20:40:17 UTC | #950903

foundationist's Avatar Comment 16 by foundationist

I think this lawsuit is somewhat stupid. Of course it all depends on the exact circumstances, the way the songs were presented, the reason they were selected etc.

Being german, I know only one of the mentioned songs, "He's got the whole world in his hands", which I actually really like. Yes, it repeats itself alot, but it has a very catchy tune, one of those songs that makes you want to sing along and that sticks in the head.

Many of the American spirituals and gospels are great for chorus singing, in particular for children and beginners. "Oh when the saints go marching in" has in my opinion the best and most cheerful tune anyone ever came up with and it would be a real tragedy if American school children would have to have music lessons leaving out what is arguably one of the most influencial music styles in American history. The blues and ultimately all modern rock and pop music stems from these roots.

Long story short, in my opinion this is akin to eliminating the word "nigger" from Mark Twain novels.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 22:37:53 UTC | #950905

OHooligan's Avatar Comment 17 by OHooligan

Is the lawsuit objecting to the song containing these lyrics? If not, why not?

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 00:07:35 UTC | #950909

LaurieB's Avatar Comment 18 by LaurieB

Here we go again. I was dead set against the Rhode Island cross monument and I'm dead set against a PUBLIC Elementary School forcing its music students to perform church songs. For those here who are not American please understand that this has nothing to do with feelings. This is a violation of our National Constitution. I'm very happy when FFRF goes after these predatory indoctrinators. If they want to teach religious music then do it in their local church. There's no shortage of them in this place. Granted, I know nothing about music education whatsoever, but seriously, are we hard up for decent simple little musical pieces for elementary school students? I mean, we're not talking about Handel for an 8 year old, are we?

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 00:41:37 UTC | #950912

pablo_mac's Avatar Comment 19 by pablo_mac

Soooo...if messages contained in songs don't mean anything to children, and no real-life effects will ever manifest themselves in the minds of said children....I wonder whether the school might consider using the following song to illustrate the possible complexities of guitar-based chord progressions :

"The Conjuring" by Megadeth :

"I AM THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
A SALESMAN, if you will . . .
Come join me in my INFERNAL DEPTHS . . .
I've got your soul!"
At the end of the song — they chant "OBEY"!

I wonder who would be "going after the children" then?

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 10:26:19 UTC | #950936

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 20 by SaganTheCat

@pablo_mac

Megadeath is hardly suitible for teaching elementry school children music. the benefit of songs like "he's got the whole world in his hands" etc is they are catchy and easy to learn

like this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsd6Fjc9MVs

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:13:21 UTC | #950940

debaser71's Avatar Comment 21 by debaser71

In the real world where children actually go to school and have religion jammed down their throats, here's how ot plays out. Other third graders tell my daughter that if she doesn't believe in god then "god will kill her and send her to fire". In 5th grade it turns into, "you don't like america if you don't believe in god".

Keep religion out of school. Fight it on every front, no matter how seemingly trivial.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 13:46:02 UTC | #950947

pablo_mac's Avatar Comment 22 by pablo_mac

@SaganTheCat

Apologies, should have added the desired " :-) " smiley face at the end of my megadeth post.

Although, to pick up on debaser71, I think that kind of rhetoric debaser71 describes is just as unsuitable as Megadeth- and forms a major part of the bible, which is also catchy and easily remembered in places...

..Not to mention RD's Magic of Reality - there have been many published complaints that this is atheism masquerading as science-for-children. Can't have it both ways!

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 15:18:51 UTC | #950958

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 23 by TheRationalizer

Dan Dennett may enjoy overtly religious songs, but Dan Dennett is not 5 years old. Why do you think that Christian religious worship is mandatory in the UK for school children aged up to 11 but then after that it is not?

It does do harm. It was religious songs at school which planted the seeds in my mind which as an adult enabled me to find the whole god/Jesus concept plausible. I was not happy when my little girl came home singing My god is so big. Until then she knew nothing of religion, they aren't getting my baby!

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:56:40 UTC | #950964

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 24 by DocWebster

I have much less problem with kids learning Hook In Mouth, Symphony of Destruction, and Sweating Bullets than I do with The Old Rugged Cross. Notwithstanding the fact that Dave Mustaine has proven himself to be an ignorant asshat he is a brilliant songwriter and kids could learn a lot about imagery and tone in writing by studying the music.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 04:14:46 UTC | #950986

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 25 by mordacious1

At Thanksgiving last year, Mr.Chaikowski taught the class to sing the following prayer: Thank you for the world so sweet Thank you for the food we eat Thank you for the birds that sing Thank you God for everything.

Definitely against the First Amendment. If the school district fights this, they will lose and have to pay big bucks for lawyer fees. Pretty stupid waste of taxpayers money to push your nonsensical agenda.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 06:31:39 UTC | #950989

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 26 by paulmcuk

It's tricky. My intial reaction is to say that, yes, it is a lawsuit too far. It plays into the hands of religionists because it can look, even to atheists, as petty and trivial. Also, I love a few carols at Christmas and enjoy a lot of religious music, such as "Jerusalem".

However, in this case a (presumably atheist) parent is concerned about their child and has asked for help so should not be abandoned. I would like to see the full music curriculum to place the religious songs into context. Do they also sing Puff the Magic Dragon? Yellow Submarine? If the religious songs are greatly outweighed by secular ones then I don't see much harm. But if every music lesson is peppered with songs praising god then its another matter.

What struck me most about the article was this phrase:

"Gaylor dismissed the argument, saying the songs don't have to be part of a prayer to violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, WHICH HAS BEEN INTERPRETED AS requiring a separation of church and state."

Sounds like the religious right are gearing up for a RE-interpretation, unless it's already well under way and I'm behind the times.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 09:03:37 UTC | #950992

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 27 by nick keighley

Comment 6 by SaganTheCat :

i agree this is a lawsuit too far. there may well be some cynical motivation behind the choise but we should all accept that a large number of tunes we all know have words that suggest there's such a thing as god.

eg. "God Save The Queen, Its a Fascist Regime!"

that said, i accept if religious songe can be sung in school, so can advertising jingles

"I'd Like To Give The World A Hope..."

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 12:17:13 UTC | #950995

78rpm's Avatar Comment 28 by 78rpm

Comment 18 by LaurieB :

Here we go again. I was dead set against the Rhode Island cross monument and I'm dead set against a PUBLIC Elementary School forcing its music students to perform church songs. For those here who are not American please understand that this has nothing to do with feelings. This is a violation of our National Constitution. I'm very happy when FFRF goes after these predatory indoctrinators. If they want to teach religious music then do it in their local church. There's no shortage of them in this place. Granted, I know nothing about music education whatsoever, but seriously, are we hard up for decent simple little musical pieces for elementary school students? I mean, we're not talking about Handel for an 8 year old, are we?

     DITTO

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 15:03:10 UTC | #951002

raytoman's Avatar Comment 29 by raytoman

They banned "Gollywogs". They banned "eeny meeny miney moe, catch a nigger by the toe" They banned "nigger in the woodpile"

These "silly" actions, to counteract racism against black people, raised awareness of the insidious nature of institutional racism which nowadays is even reducing in the US and South Africa.

Religion, practiced (in one of it's 9,000+ forms) by over 6 billion people (yes, you CAN count foetuses since there is a 93% probability that you will be right) is currently supported and defended by all sorts of cultural and legal crap and growing in it's fundamentalist nature and its power and control over others (it is after all simply a power and control mechanism).

Anything that draws attention to the ridiculous nature of religion or causes controversy can only be good if it gets people to think.

We have Evolution, DNA, Cosmology, Science, etc which (if people can read and choose to read non fiction) SHOULD ensure that people free themselves from the parasite that is religion.

Since this is not the case, why not try banning "swearing on the bible", "teaching religion as part of School curricula", "reference to God in National Anthems", "tax free and charitable status for religion, especially on assets", "protection for religion from legal action for fraud, false pretences, bullying, religious songs, etc".

You know it makes sense!

PS Isn't it great that now black people can call each other nigger as a term of affection and that the word is typically never used by non blacks. Just think "and no religion too" (nice one John).

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 23:21:25 UTC | #951013

ratanu's Avatar Comment 30 by ratanu

I just wonder how many people commenting on this post have taken music theory or even music appreciation. I think my point has been made.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 23:56:29 UTC | #951016