CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — When Faith Griffin asked her child what songs she would be singing at an upcoming school chorus concert, she was surprised to hear the answer.
“She told me that two out of the three songs they’d be singing at the concert were Christian worship songs,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s student attends Western Branch Middle School. Last week’s chorus concert featured groups from three schools, and was billed as a “family fun night.”
Griffin said she called the school to express her concerns over the music choices.
“The principal said she had no idea that was the lineup, and had she been notified sooner, she would have canceled the concert,” Griffin said.
Feeling it was too late to cancel the show, the school added one additional secular song for the group from Western Branch — meaning that the group sang a total of four songs, two of them with Christian themes, Griffin said. The Christian-themed songs were “Praise His Holy Name” by Keith Hampton, and “Elijah Rock.”
The school also informed her that her daughter could choose not to participate in the Christian songs, and could exit the stage while the songs were performed.
“The kids joined chorus to sing,” she said. “I felt like that would single them out in front of a crowd, in front of their peers. The Christian kids get to participate and sing in the concert and non-Christian kids stand off stage and not participate, which is just discrimination towards any Jewish students, Muslim students, any students who aren’t Christian.”
A spokesperson for Chesapeake Public Schools told 10 On Your Side that aside from a few vocal parents, the majority of people supported the use of the religious songs in the concert. The school division also sent us this statement:
“Chesapeake Public Schools is aware that the combined chorus concert held last week at Western Branch High School included music selections of varying genres, including a selection that is considered a religious song. During the performance, the choral directors introduced each selection with the rationale for the inclusion of each song in the performance and explained the instructional significance of each selection. Any student who wished to opt out of performing a particular selection for religious reasons was permitted to do so without penalty.
According to the National Association for Music Education, “the study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education.” While several court cases cited by the National Association for Music Education permit the inclusion of religious songs in public school performances, Chesapeake Public Schools staff and administration recognize the importance of respecting the religious viewpoints of others and we respect a student’s right to refrain from participating in a performance for religious reasons.”— Chesapeake Public Schools