Is it to early for Christmas news? Not if it’s a good controversy.
A few days ago the Wausau School Board in Wisconsin limited the religious music that could be played at holiday concerts. I’m just catching up with the controversy.
Kathleen Williams, the school’s superintendent, said:
“A public school advancing Christmas caroling, which is specifically associated with Christmas, which is a religious holiday, which could be interpreted as endorsing a religion.”
In a way the story seems overly familiar. Williams and the schoolboard’s argument states that carols are religious and should be kept separate from a school (state) activity. And just like prohibiting prayer in school, this is going to provoke many Christians.
I’m sure the school board–thanks to the media barrage–wishes they’d left it alone.
What I find interesting, though, is that unlike prayer in school, Christmas songs and carols may–to many listeners–just seem like traditional music without religious associations. These are songs we know as a culture, and because of this, they expand beyond a specific religion. In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian to like “Away in the Manger.”
I’m not arguing that the school district was right or wrong. Wausau will have to sort that out. Only that Christmas songs–like patriotic songs–have multiple and deep meanings for many listeners. Telling folks they can’t sing “Away in the Manger” may be legally sound, but it’s not a great way to win friends.
I’ll continue to look into this . . . Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story.
*My understanding is that the school’s choir will still be allowed to perform religious songs. These songs, however, will be limited to a small percentage of the overall music program.