Religion in Society

Court Rules School Can’t Make 3rd Graders Sing Christian Song

| by American Atheists

An Atheist state-church separation group today heralded a decision by a Federal Judge that struck down a move by a Florida grade school to include an overtly religious song in an end-of-year assembly.

This past week, Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger ruled that teachers and officials at the Webster School in St. Johns County acted improperly by having third-grade youngsters practice "In God We Still Trust," composed by the country singing group Diamond Rio. Judge Schlesinger opined that students had their First Amendment rights violated when they were forced to choose between performing "proselytizing" and "sectarian" music or skipping their school assembly. He described the song as "espousing a specific religious viewpoint and attacking those who do not share in the same belief."

Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, praised the ruling but regretted the need for legal intervention.

"It has been over 46 years when coercive prayer and other religious exercises in our public schools was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court," said Buckner. "We still see evidence that some teachers and school officials flaunt the law, and are attempting to enlist our children in religious proselytizing and indoctrination."

Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists also praised the ruling.

It would be difficult to find a more blatant violation of the First Amendment prohibition against government establishing religion than a song requiring public school children to sing ""There's no separation. ... We're one nation under Him ...... Now it's time for all believers to make our voices heard."