Last month, a high school in Ohio came under fire for having band students wear a shirt with the word “Salvation” during a concert performance. Now, after getting a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school is fighting back by making even more of a statement.
The Licking Valley High School marching band, from Newark, Ohio, performed at the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival and wore black t-shirts with the word “Salvation” on them in reference their focal piece this year, Pavel Tchesnokov's "Salvation is Created.” Late last month, however, following the performance, the school’s superintendent received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation criticizing them for their decision to allow the shirts.
“When a public school allows its marching band to display religious messages, like 'Salvation,' during performances, they unconstitutionally entangle the school with religion," reads the letter. "...Students and community members might reasonably presume that the marching band and its message of 'Salvation' is sponsored by the Licking Valley Local School District."
In addition to the shirt controversy, Superintendent Dave Hile received another letter from the foundation regarding their decision to allow the football team to pray.
Now, in direct response to the foundation’s letters and the controversy surrounding the shirts, residents of the local community gathered on the high school’s football field following a game to pray together.
“It was just about getting the community together and supporting the school," said event organizer Melissa Fitzgerald-Klein. "I know the boys could pray on their own ... but I wanted to show our staff and our coaches and all the faculty that we support them."
Hundreds of local residents gathered for the event, and Fitzgerald-Klein says she was surprised to see so many people.
“I didn't think a lot of people would turn out, but then it just rolled and snowballed," Fitzgerald-Klein said. "It was just nice to get the community together. I'm pleased how it turned out."