A public charter school in the northern part of South Carolina will allow students from the seventh through 11th grades to perform religious songs as part of its holiday concert after all.
Clay Eaton, the managing director of York Preparatory Academy in Rock Hill. S.C. had previously told students that he had to ban two medleys — “Christmas Overture” and “The Joy of Christmas” — because the American Civil Liberties Union objected, reports The Herald, a local newspaper.
Songs in the proposed medleys included “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Freshman band member Phillip Dean told The Herald that Eaton initially claimed that the ACLU had sent the school a letter threatening a lawsuit if the students performed the songs at the Dec. 19 concert.
The next day, Dean said, Eaton changed his story and suggested that he was banning the songs because of a mysterious ACLU press release.
Last week, Eaton told The Herald told that the ACLU distributed a press release “a year or year and a half ago” declaring its stance on church-and-state separation.
“There are differing opinions about what type of songs would be more or less appropriate for a holiday-themed performance,” Eaton told the paper. “There’s a lot of gray area.”
However, the ACLU of South Carolina has flatly denied sending any letter to York Prep or any general press release concerning the annually contentious issue of Christmas songs performed at public-school holiday concerts.
Victoria Middleton, a spokeswoman for South Carolina’s ACLU chapter noted that the august civil rights organization frequently gets blamed when school administrators unilaterally decide to outlaw Christmas music this time of year.
On Monday, Eaton backtracked. “After careful review,” he said in a statement, the school’s governing board had determined that a “balanced musical program, which included both religious and secular music, best affirmed the ideals of” the taxpayer-funded charter school.
In the statement, Eaton also described the hullabaloo about the Christmas songs as “very healthy and constructive,” notes The Herald.
The controversy caused York Prep’s governing board to meet twice. Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, also intervened via a letter on behalf of some students and parents.