If there’s any tune likely to turn impressionable young minds away from God, it’s the teeth-grindingly turgid Ave Maria. All the more reason therefore that this story is so depressing:
SEATTLE — Barring an instrumental performance of a Christian hymn at a high school graduation did not violate students’ First Amendment rights and was within the school superintendent’s discretion, a divided federal appeals panel ruled Tuesday…The case arose a year after a choral performance of the song “Up Above My Head” at the 2005 commencement for Henry M. Jackson High School in Everett, 25 miles north of Seattle. The song, with references to God, angels and heaven, drew complaints and protest letters to The Herald, the town’s daily newspaper. Administrators raised red flags when wind ensemble seniors, who had played Franz Biebl’s uptempo 1964 rendering of “Ave Maria” without controversy at a winter concert, proposed a reprise at their graduation in 2006.School officials said the title alone identified “Ave Maria” — Hail Mary in Latin — as religious and that graduation should be strictly secular.
While I’m always a touch skeptical about the extent to which the First Amendment should apply in a high school, it’s a sad reflection of our ridiculous times that the school authorities should have acted in the way they did.