The Freedom from Religion Foundation — a national atheist activist group — has demanded that an Alabama high school marching band stop its "religious" halftime performances at football games, AL.com reported.
What is the atheist group upset about?
- The FFRF said the Leeds High School marching band's show resembles a Christian church service, with church pews set up on the football field.
- In addition, the band plays hymns such as "Will the Circle be Unbroken," "I Saw the Light," "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" and "Amazing Grace," AL.com reported.
- "Seeing the pews on the field with little crosses on them ... was really more than them showing religious music," Chris Line, an FFRF legal fellow, told WBMA-TV. "It was clearly meant to evoke a Christian worship service that you'll see on Sunday in a church."
- The FFRF sent a letter to the district that the show violates the separation of church and state, noting that public schools can't "advance or promote religion," the outlet added.
- FFRF officials told AL.com a "concerned local parent" contacted them about the issue and claimed the band director told band members who don't support the show that they can "drop out of band."
- "The band director's actions are way over the line," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told the outlet. "In a secular setup, he cannot be permitted to foist his religion on others."
How is the school reacting?
- "We have submitted the FFRF's complaint to the [school] Board's attorney for review," Leeds City Schools Superintendent John J. Moore told AL.com. "We do not have plans to stop the show."
- Leeds High School Principal Brent Shaw added to WBMA that the show is "not meant in any way to offend anyone or try to convert anybody to Christianity."
Image source: WBMA-TV video screenshot
- Shaw added to the station that his students worked hard on their performance, and the school will consider removing some of the props — but that the show will otherwise remain the same.
A complaint letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation led to a ban on student-led prayer over the loudspeaker before football games at Alabama’s Smiths Station High School — but late last month ended up praying without amplification anyway.
(H/T: Todd Starnes)