Religious lyrics bring school more trouble

Attorneys are seeking to halt teaching of a song they call a “blatantly sectarian and proselytizing religious song” to third-graders at The Webster School of St. Augustine, FL, until the case can go to court.

This is the second time in less than a month that attorneys asked the United States District Court in Jacksonville for a preliminary injunction to stop a song at Webster.

School district officials said they knew nothing about the amended complaint until contacted by The St. Augustine Record Tuesday evening.

“Our attorney (Frank Upchurch) had not heard of it. No one knew about it,” said Margie Davidson, spokeswoman for the St. Johns County School District.

Attempts to reach Superintendent Joe Joyner were unsuccessful.

The amended complaint, filed Tuesday, comes less than a week after a federal judge ruled the School District, a school principal and two teachers violated two students’ First Amendment rights by making them choose between practicing what he called a “proselytizing” and “sectarian” country music song for an end-of-the-year assembly or sitting out the performance.

The song was “In God We Still Trust,” released in 2005 by Diamond Rio. Two parents and their third-graders filed a lawsuit in protest in March.

The teachers and principal said in affidavits the children were told participation in the assembly was voluntary and the children did not have to sing the song.

The case still must go to trial.

On Tuesday attorneys Bill Sheppard and Gray Thomas sought another preliminary injunction for a second tune also being taught to third-graders at Webster. They’re asking the judge to order the school to stop having the pupils sing the song until the judge can decided if they should be prohibited from learning it in school.

They’re also asking the judge to rule, as in the first case, that their constitutional rights were violated by making them either learn a song that runs counter to their religious beliefs or be ostracized by their classmates.

This injunction request named the school board, Joyner, the principal and three teachers, including the music teacher.

At issue this time is the music teacher’s introduction of “Chatter With the Angels,” a song the suit calls “sectarian” and “proselytizing.”

The suit claims directing the students to rehearse or perform the “Chatter” song constitutes “retaliation against Plaintiffs for their having instituted” the case for “In God We Trust.”

The injunction ruling came April 15. Webster began teaching the song on April 20, according to the amended complaint.

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