A single word on a public high school’s marching band uniforms caused atheists to grumble.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote a letter to School District Superintendent Dave Hile complaining about the black T-shirts worn by Ohio’s Licking Valley High School Marching Panthers because they displayed the word “Salvation” in white letters.
According to the FFRF, that “religious regalia” served to promote Christianity, making the shirts “constitutionally objectionable” when worn by public school students.
The word referred to one of the band’s performance pieces, “Salvation is Created,” by Russian composer Pavel Tchesnokov.
“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 Newark Advocate. “That doesn’t have anything to do with religion, as far as I’m concerned.”
The FFRF said that doesn’t matter. The presence of the word on the shirts could reasonably lead viewers to “presume that the marching band and its message of ‘Salvation’ is sponsored by the Licking Valley Local School District,” according to the letter.
The band wore the shirts two or three times this year, Hile said, most recently for a performance at the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival. That was the performance that prompted the letter of complaint, and it was the last time the band will wear the shirts – but not because of the FFRF.
The shirts were already not on the schedule for any future performances, Hile said, even though the song is.
The FFRF’s letter also argued that the shirts represent the usurpation by the school of parents’ right to provide religious instruction to their children and could cause non-Christian students to feel like “outsiders.”
The atheist group furthermore demanded a response from Hile, but the superintendent said that he has not responded to the letter and has no plans to do so.
Take that, angry atheists.
You can read the full text of the FFRF’s letter below and, if you haven’t heard it, click here to listen to a vocal rendition of Tchesnokov’s “Salvation is Created.”
CORRECTION: And early version of this post, and its original headline, originally identified Licking Valley High School’s incorrectly. It is in Ohio.
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