PJI 'thrilled' to help students reclaim their freedoms

Monday, December 9, 2019
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

woman playing pianoA school in northern California has changed its tune and will allow a student to play "Joy to the World" on the piano.

13-year-old Brooklyn Benzel, a student at South Sutter Charter School in Placerville, wanted to play the song during a student piano performance for a nearby retirement home. A recording of the performance would then be submitted as part of Brooklyn's independent-study portfolio. However, the Benzel family's attorneys at Pacific Justice Institute say the child was initially told the song was too religious, and she was advised to perform "Jingle Bells" instead.

"We stepped in and said the courts have made it very clear that the government cannot censor student speech like this simply because of its religious content," reports Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI). "That amounts to state hostility of religion and a violation of her free speech and free exercise rights."

Dacus

At first, Brooklyn's mother, Julianne, thought there must be some mistake. In follow-up e-mails, though, school officials said they must "err on the side of caution" and pointed to words like "Savior" and "heaven" in the carol that they deemed problematic.

"The Benzels were floored," says Dacus. "For one thing, the piano performance would not actually include the lyrics of ‘Joy to the World,’ as it was purely instrumental."

The legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom helped the school see the situation sensibly.

"We're thrilled that Brooklyn will now be able to bring joy to this retirement home with a timeless carol," says PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds. "No student should be made to feel that their choice of a musical performance is unacceptable just because it has both religious and cultural significance."  

Dacus adds that, without fail, the grinches come out every year during the Christmas season to try to take away timeless traditions and censor Christian speech.

McReynolds, Matthew (PJI)PJI is currently suing another charter school operated by the same officials over similar concerns. In that case, the charter school rejected an application from a piano teacher to become an approved vendor because they thought the name of her studio—His Song Piano—was too religious. They also said she would need to tear out or cover up songs in her piano teaching songbooks like "Amazing Grace" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."

The Pacific Justice Institute has printed a free, downloadable book called Reclaim Your School to empower students, parents, teachers, and communities on all that they can do legally to express and live their faith in public schools.

Comments

We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details

FEATURED PODCAST

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSBRIEF

SUBSCRIBE

VOTE IN OUR POLL

What's behind the leftward-drift among major Protestant denominations in America?

CAST YOUR VOTE

GET PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

SUBSCRIBE

LATEST AP HEADLINES

Eleven US troops flown to medical centers after Iran strike
Virginia's highest court upholds weapons ban at gun rally
Rollback proposed for Michelle Obama school lunch guidelines
Iowa Democrats treat Warren-Sanders dust-up as 'Who cares?'
California teachers sue after jetliner dumps fuel on schools
Trump's impeachment trial begins, senators vowing 'impartial justice'
Dershowitz, Starr on Trump impeachment legal team

LATEST FROM THE WEB

Trump honors national champion LSU Tigers at White House
Iran's Supreme Leader calls Trump a 'clown' during first sermon in eight years, and he just fired back in a tweet
Rand Paul warns Republicans could block witnesses for Trump
Is threat of suicide bombings against Americans in Middle East imminent?
Did CNN finally push its biases too far for the American people?

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Cartoon of the Day
NEXT STORY
LA law seeks to take care of women

gavel with U.S. flagAn observer who has his eye on a particular Supreme Court case says the New Year will bring plenty of legal disputes.