- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

NEW HAMPTON, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Board of Education is set to consider a family’s complaint over a public school choir singing religious music.

The parents, whose daughter recently graduated from the New Hampton Community School District, say the choir inappropriately endorses Christianity by performing songs such as, “In This Very Room,” which has lyrics including, “For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.” The choir performed the song holding hands and forming a circle around the audience.

The family brought their concerns to the School Board earlier this year, The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1Ip1WG7 ) reported.

Superintendent Jay Jurrens said district officials consulted with attorneys in allowing the choir to continue their practices. The board also received a petition with almost 600 signatures in favor of the choir’s song selections.

“The school board felt we were within the law in doing things correctly,” Jurrens said.

The family is appealing to the state over the matter, and the state board will consider the case at its Thursday meeting. An administrative law already has recommended that the school district be allowed to continue the musical selections.

The Education Department’s spokeswoman said the state has no administrative rules regarding religious music in schools.

According to a legal document detailing the case, the parents’ concerns date back to 2011-12 when their daughter was a freshman and they first heard “In This Very Room.” The music director said the song was selected by students years before, and that it was the students’ idea to hold hands during the song. Choir members can choose to opt out of a performance for religious reasons.

The document adds that the majority of choral music is based on religious music, because historically, churches and royalty commissioned the work of composers and had the resources to preserve music in a written format.

“With the high ratio of religious choral music in music libraries in relation to non-religious pieces, to limit choral selections to non-religious pieces would significantly limit the amount of good choral pieces that are available for performances,” it says.

Jurrens, the superintendent, said the School Board expects to review the state board’s decision at their next scheduled meeting.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens,” he said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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