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High School Marching Band Added a Simple Word to Its T-Shirts — but Atheists Claim It Violated the U.S. Constitution

"Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion, regardless of popular opinion or majority vote."

A high school marching band has caught the ire of atheist activists for donning T-shirts with the word "salvation" on them during a recent performance.

The band at Licking Valley High School in Newark, Ohio, apparently captured the attention of atheist activists while performing at a local festival earlier this month. These critics contend that the word has no place on public school T-shirts.

In a letter to Dave Hile, superintendent of the Licking Valley Local Schools, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, said that the word "salvation" — a reference to Russian composer Pavel Tchesnokov's "Salvation Is Created" — is inappropriate and a violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Newark Advocate.

"When a public school allows its marching band to display religious messages, like 'Salvation,' during performances, they unconstitutionally entangle the school with religion," the group wrote.

Read the complaint in its entirety below:

While the shirts will no longer be worn, the district said that the decision has nothing to do with atheists' complaints, as the aforementioned festival was the last time the marching band was scheduled to wear the attire.

Hile, who said he has no plans to respond to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's letter, told the Newark Advocate that students will continue to perform "Salvation Is Created," an instrumental that the band is focusing on this year.

"There's lots of different definitions for the word salvation, and the piece of music itself is instrumental, so there's no lyrics involved with it," Hile told the outlet. "That doesn't have anything to do with religion, as far as I'm concerned."

But the Freedom From Religion took a very different view, writing in its letter that "Salvation Is Created" is an overtly religious song and that its meaning cannot be stripped from it; the shirts, according to the organization, are a perceived endorsement of religion.

"Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion, regardless of popular opinion or majority vote," the letter read. "Even if the T-shirts were only intended to reference the song by Pavel Tchesnokov, such a display would nonetheless be constitutionally objectionable."

(H/T: Newark Advocate)


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