Community failed student for trying to prohibit religious song

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By Kathryn Jacewicz, Staff writer

"Christian Songs Get OK'd at Schools' Talent Show."

Among all the day’s global headlines—the latest from Libya, earthquake relief in Japan and the anticipated premiere of “Dancing With the Stars”—this one caught my attention.

The headline accompanied a story about a student in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The student’s parents sued the district after the school principal told the student to “pick a song that does not say Jesus so many times” after he auditioned for the school talent show using religious music.

The parties agreed to settle the suit. The boy was allowed to dance to the song, and the district revised its policy—“Student speakers at student assemblies and extracurricular activities such as sporting events or talent shows may not be selected on a basis that either favors or disfavors religious speech.”

The boy surrounded in the controversy was in elementary school. A fifth-grader. His school community should have been applauding his courage to stand in front of a large group of people and express his faith and religious beliefs through his dancing at such a young age. Instead, they tore him down. His community failed him.

It’s 2011. Everyone’s jumped onboard the PC wagon, and trying to mix church and state can cause problems, I get it. But I’ve been at school talent shows where, quite frankly, you could argue some of today’s popular music is just as offensive. I’d much rather hear the word “Jesus” than any of the four-letter words other songs choose to repeat.

But what mostly happens here in Brunswick County is something really special. Not only are students encouraged to get onstage and try their best, they are supported in whatever type of music, dance or performance art they want to express. I’ve seen students perform to religious music, songs from other cultures and in other languages and just about every genre there is.

Sit down for this one, Los Angeles Unified School District. I’ve even seen teachers teach their students songs that have the words “Jesus,” “Lord” and “Hallelujah.” I’ve never asked if they have faced opposition from parents or school administration, but I’d bet they haven’t, since the religious music hasn’t stopped.

I’m guessing they haven’t heard from members of the Brunswick County Board of Education. They begin their monthly public board meetings with a prayer. I’ve been at almost every meeting for the past three years, and I have never seen anyone object or leave during the prayer.

I think people across the nation could learn a little something from the people of Brunswick County, where people are respected for their beliefs and children of the community are encouraged to freely express themselves.