A battle over religious music at a public school in Wausau, Wis., has temporarily concluded, as the district, which initially attempted to limit faith-themed songs, is backing down.
Last week, Phil Buch, the chair of Wausau West High School music department, temporarily disbanded the Master Singers music ensemble in a bold act of defiance after district officials proposed that the number of religious songs this holiday season be cut down in the ensemble’s upcoming holiday shows.
Buch’s actions made national news.
Now, The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal group, is claiming victory. On Tuesday, the student choir began practicing its music again after the district abandoned it’s plans to amend music selections. For now, it seems the holiday songs will be permitted.
“The courts have never thought [of religious songs in schools as] a problem because there’s obvious secular reasons for them in concerts,” ADF litigation counsel Rory Gray told The Christian Post, going on to argue that the carols hold both traditional and educational value.
The controversy first kicked off when members of the school board notified Buch earlier this month that he would have to revise his set list for the winter concert, he simply refused. Local media initially reported that officials sought out a specific arrangement for song selection — five secular holiday tunes for every religion-themed song.
But the Christian Post notes that Buch, who has directed music at the school since 1981, was given three possibilities. While the aforementioned option was apparently on the table, the prospects of holding a concert with no Christmas music or postponing December concerts were also proposed.
A fan of none of these proposals, Buch simply suspended the choir until a solution was reached.
Amid national attention and furor, the school board decided this week to hold off on making decisions surrounding holiday music selections. This essentially left Buch and his Master Singers with their original song list. As a result, they are slated to sing as originally planned at local nursing homes, businesses and other venues, WAOW-TV reports.
Wausau Public Schools Superintendent Kathleen Williams is also under fire for her role in the debacle. On Monday night, the school board voted to review her performance.
Confusion has surrounded what sparked the attempt to crack down on Christmas music.
“This is all part of the establishment clause. Nothing had to trigger it really; this is what music in public school or any teaching in public schools needs to follow,” Williams previously told WOAW-TV.
“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,” she added.
The district plans to further investigate.
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(H/T: Christian Post)