TOPEKA — A south-central Kansas public school choir teacher taught middle school students Christian worship songs centering around loving Jesus, such as “Praise His Holy Name,” and made students listen to Bible lessons, according to a national watchdog group’s report.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit geared toward the separation of state and church, urged the district to stop the practice in late November after a concerned district parent reached out to them.
“It’s not a teacher’s job to convert a student to their religion, no matter what tools they use to do so,” said FRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a news release.
The parent told the FRF that a teacher at Challenger Intermediate School in the Goddard school district had been teaching sixth-graders religious songs since late October, including “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.”
Lyrics of the song “Praise His Holy Name” has such lines as “Jesus, Jesus, how I love Thee! Shout Hallelujah!” and “There’s a cross for ev’ryone and there’s a cross for me.”
“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” is a song encouraging people to pray for salvation. The song includes such lines as “The wind blows east and the wind blows west / It blows like the judgment day / And ev’ry poor soul that never did pray / Will be glad to pray that day.”
The teacher allegedly also taught lessons on the biblical story of Daniel, a story that is meant to encourage belief and worship of the Abrahamic God.
FRF legal fellow Samantha Lawrence sent district superintendent Justin Henry a letter warning of these constitutional violations on Nov. 29.
“There is no need for a public intermediate school choral program to select religious worship music for students, and it is plainly unconstitutional for a public school choir teacher to teach students Bible lessons,” Lawrence wrote.
“By coercing sixth-grade students to sing overtly Christian worship music in its choral program, the district demonstrates favoritism towards religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths,” she added. “This favoritism towards Christianity needlessly alienates all students and families, such as our complainant and their child, who do not subscribe to Christianity.”
Henry’s response to the letter, as reported by the FRF, was to inform the teacher of constitutional rights and violations.
“Since receiving your email on Nov. 29, we have had the opportunity to provide (the teacher) this information and will be planning a meeting with all district choir instructors to ensure they understand the information,” Henry said.
A spokesman for the district didn’t immediately answer questions from Kansas Reflector.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.