Christmas music will continue in schools here|
Sacred music will remain a part of the Antigo school district musical repertoire, despite a move by a neighboring district to limit concerts to mainly secular offerings.
The Wausau school district created a stir last week, when it issued a directive to curb religious music in December on the advice of its legal counsel.
That directive led to the disbanding of one of the district’s elite high school choral groups and the cancellation of elementary holiday concerts.
A similar situation is not likely in the Antigo school district, officials here said, which has a policy dating to 1995 that details the teaching and use of religious beliefs and customs.
According to Cindy Fischer, director of instruction, the policy notes that religious music can be used as long at it does not take on the character of religious devotions.
The policy specifically allows “playing, singing and presenting music that is religious in its content, providing it is done in a non-devotional manner and presented to enhance its musical value only.”
The policy goes on to note that while the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution calls for the separation of church and state, it is important to advance the student’s knowledge and appreciation of the role that the nation’s religious heritage has played in the social, cultural and historical development of civilization.
“The several holidays throughout the year which have a religious and secular basis may be observed in the school district provided they do not promote any one religion,” the policy states. “Music, art, literature and drama having religious themes or basis are permitted as part of school-sponsored activities and programs if presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of that particular holiday.”
The policy does include an abstinence provision, allowing students and staff members to be excused from participating in practices which are contrary to ther religious beliefs.
Antigo’s policy appears to echo the stance of the National Association of Music Education. On its website, the group states that “the study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education.” To exclude it, the group said, would result in an incomplete curriculum.
The Wausau Daily Herald reported Saturday that school district officials gave staff three options for December concerts. They were instructed to choose five non-religious songs for each religious song performed; exclude holiday music altogether; or postpone any December concerts.
Those options led to the disbanding of the 20-member Master Singers choral group, which traditional performs a great deal of Christmas music. The district’s 15 elementary schools also jointly decided to cancel all winter concerts. Wausau West High School will hold its concert, as scheduled, at the Grand Theater but without the choral groups. The status of middle school concerts is unclear.
Wausau School Board President Michelle Schaefer told the newspaper that the change in policy came in response to legal concerns over the amount of religious music performed in the schools.
“From a school board perspective, we look for music that is balanced,” Schaefer told the newspaper. “Yes, we are a predominantly Christian society, but we are also a society of many faiths and we want to respect that.”
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