Constitutional music to FFRF’s ears

FFRF was able to help put a stop to the intrusion of religion into three public music programs recently.

Canal Fulton, Ohio

A concerned resident alerted FFRF to a constitutional violation at a high school in Canal Fulton, Ohio.

A joint concert between the Northwest High School choir and the Central Presbyterian Church choir, which took place at a church and included religious music, was described by Northwest vocal teacher and organist at Central Presbyterian Church as a “culmination of spiritual, musical and theological union.”

FFRF’s Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Christopher Line wrote to Northwest Local Schools’ Superintendent Michael Schreffler on June 5 requesting assurance that the school choir will no longer participate in the religious performances at the church.

General counsel for the Northwest Local Board of Education, Mary Jo Shannon Slick, responded to FFRF on June 29 confirming that the board has reviewed FFRF’s concerns and will not be holding choir performances in a church in the future.

Mesquite, Texas

A parent of a student at Mesquite Independent School District in Mesquite, Texas, notified FFRF that a student choir performed on a stage in front of a large Latin cross, adjacent to a Christian flag on a pole with a cross on top. The venue was reportedly full of other religious iconography, including wall and table art quoting scripture, religious pamphlets and pews full of bibles and hymnals. The parent also noted that there were many alternative, secular venues available to the district at no cost.

On Feb. 6, FFRF Associate Council Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent David Vroonland to issue a complaint regarding the all-city choir concert at Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas.

On June 19, district representative Karyn Cummings wrote FFRF to confirm that the “Mesquite Independent School District does not have any choir events scheduled in religious venues for the 2018-2019 school year.”

Arvada, Colo.

FFRF reminded a Colorado city mayor that scheduling a Christian worship band to perform at city-sponsored events poses a serious violation of constitutional separation of state and church. On April 20, FFRF’s Christopher Line wrote Marc Williams, mayor of Arvada, Co., about the city’s regular scheduling of Christian worship band, Renewed Music Ministries.

An Arvada resident reported that the city invited the band to perform at the annual Arvada Kite Festival. The complainant reported that the band played almost exclusively Christian music and the members actively discussed their religious beliefs on stage. Renewed Music Ministries was the only band to perform at the event and was also scheduled to perform at the annual Arvada Days event in September.

A desk plaque at the Mesquite Independent School District in Mesquite, Texas.

On June 19, Rachel Morris, deputy city attorney for Arvada, wrote to FFRF to confirm that the city does not “plan in the future, to engage Renewed for performances at city-sponsored events.”