Maggie: November is underway! And for many, that means it is time to kick off the holiday season. But as Scott Evans shows us, for one school district in Wisconsin, this time of year is ringing in a season of controversy.
Scott: These talented performers from Wausau West High School might be changing their tune in future holiday seasons. The school district had proposed a ban on all religious music in schools, and seniors Kevin Ruhl and Isaac Buttke aren’t happy about it.
Kevin Ruhl: I am very upset about it, but I’m trying to stay back and kind of keep the emotions under control.
Isaac Buttke: There’s definitely a lot of choral literature that’s religious.
Scott: Members of the Wausau West’s Master Singers, the district’s elite choir, are upset because they say having religious music limited is like taking Shakespeare out of a literature course.
Kevin: It’s such a big part of it that it’s going to seem empty if we’re not able to use that kind of literature.
Eric Penniman: We’re going to try to take the religion out of the music program, we’re going to really hurt the quality of music program at Wausau West High School.
Scott: Eric Penniman had three daughters graduate from Wausau West and says the music program should be adding experiences, not taking them away.
Penniman: We know all of the benefits to our children and to our young students, as they grow up, in having a full spectrum of exposure to all types of music.
Scott: The controversy started after a suggestion was made by the Wausau School District’s attorney to limit all religious music performed during the holiday concerts. Now, the concerts are school-sponsored events and the district was concerned that the religious music would violate the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state because it would promote a religion.
Williams: The goal is to make sure that students do not feel coerced into performing songs that make them very uncomfortable.
Scott: Rabbi Dan Danson says the community in Wausau should be represented by more than just one religion during the holidays.
Rabbi Danson: Increasingly diverse community with many different elements in our community, and we need to be constantly reviewing what that means, that all of our students are really feeling that they’re part of the programs in our community.
Scott: But after almost five hours of debate at a recent school board meeting, officials decided to hold off on making any changes this year. School board member Pat McKee says more in-depth conversation should be had before any new policies are put in place.
Pat McKee: Let’s get through this holiday season, form a much larger committee to study this that will involve many, many more groups from the community.
Scott: So, for now, the choir is back in rehearsal and gearing up for the holiday concert. But next year, things may change.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.
Maggie: Now we want to know what you think. Should religious songs be allowed in schools? Head on over to Channelone.com and let us know your take. Your comment might just end up on tomorrow’s show.