Wednesday, August 26, 2015

School Band Told to Stop Performing 'How Great Thou Art'

It's one of the most wonderful songs of Christian worship, brought from Sweden to America by the Billy Graham crusade.  At over 100 years of age the late George Beverly Shea was still singing it wonderfully.  We needed him so he delayed his trip "home" as long as he could.  See below:

Todd Starnes

There was no halftime show under the Friday night lights at Mississippi’s Brandon High School — the marching band had been benched.

The band was ordered off the field because the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art” was a part of their halftime show — in violation of a federal court order.

“The Rankin County School Board and District Office are very saddened students will not be able to perform their halftime show they have worked so hard on this summer,” the district wrote in a statement to the Clarion Ledger newspaper.

In 2013 a student sued the district over a series of Christian meetings that had been held on school property, the newspaper reported. The district later settled the lawsuit and acknowledged they had violated the student’s First Amendment rights.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled the district had violated the agreement after a Christian minister delivered a prayer at an awards ceremony.

Judge Reeves, who was appointed to the bench by President Obama, came down hard on the school district — ordering them to pay thousands of dollars in fines. He also warned the district that future violations would cost them $10,000.

“Defendants are permanently enjoined from including prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event including but not limited to assemblies, graduations, award ceremonies, athletic events and any other school event,” the order reads.

Word about the band getting benched spread across the town quicker than kudzu. I must have received emails and Facebook messages from nearly the entire state — from Desoto County to Yazoo City.

Something must be done to right this wrong, people said. A message had to be sent to the likes of Judge Reeves. Locals gathered in coffee shops and garages to devise their plan.

And what they did — would become known as the musical shot heard around the world.  During halftime of Friday night’s game — a lone voice began to sing the forbidden song.

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,” the singer sang.

Brittany Mann was there and she witnessed the entire moment of defiance.

“We were just sitting there and then one by one people started to stand,” she told me. “At first, it started out as a hum but the sound got louder and louder.”

She said it was a “truly incredible” moment to watch hundreds of people singing together in the stadium.

“At that moment I was so proud of my town — coming together and taking a stand for something we believe in,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see where our country is going — getting farther and farther away from the Christian beliefs that our country was founded on.”

I suspect Miss Brittany wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of pride in the Magnolia State on that warm summer night.

“We may be pictured as toothless, barefoot, uneducated people around the country, but we are far from it,” nearby resident Mandy Miller told me. “I’m from Mississippi and I’m not ashamed to take a stand.”

Oh what a sight it must have been — as hundreds and hundreds of people stood together and with one voice — sent a message to Judge Reeves.

“This is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be from the South,” Miss Mandy told me. “We are getting tired of being told to sit down and shut up. People are ready to fight back.”

Miss Mandy is absolutely right. The time has come to stand up to the secularists. The time has come to put an end to their cultural jihad.

I hope the Rankin County School Board will reconsider its decision and allow the marching band to resume performing “How Great Thou Art.”

And should Judge Reeves make good on his threat to financially punish the school district, I will personally pay the $10,000 fine.


Teacher Protests Union’s Planned Parenthood Donations, Fights for Ability to Donate to Pro-Life Charity

A Pennsylvania teacher is suing the state’s largest teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, for preventing her from donating her nonmember fees to a pro-life charity.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Linda Misja, a teacher at Apollo-Ridge High School, said she has never paid for representation by the union, which she does not want.

She said joining the union would violate her religious beliefs.

Misja, a devout Catholic, objects to the union’s decision to donate to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

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“I support people’s right to choose to be in a union, but the union’s politics violate my faith, and the law in Pennsylvania allows me to honor my faith.”

Misja applied to become a religious objector, and was approved. Under Pennsylvania law, unions are able to extract nonmember fees from teachers, but religious objectors are permitted to donate funds equivalent to union dues to charity.

Misja selected a local pro-life pregnancy resource center, the New Castle chapter of People Concerned for the Unborn Child, where she has volunteered to teach young women facing unexpected pregnancies.

The union, however, rejected her choice of charity because it “furthers” her “religious beliefs.”

“They said this charity would ‘further my religious beliefs,’” Misja said. “Helping young women who have already made a hard choice is not furthering my beliefs. It is doing the morally correct thing to do: help young people. Never in my life before have I had enough spare change to donate to a good charity like this, and so this denial hurts even more to me personally. I have been poor, been on public assistance, I have known how hard it is to make ends meet, and so I wanted my money to help locally so that I could know where it was and what good it may be doing.”

She said the union is “cherry-picking which charities I can donate my money to.”  “That’s my money, and the people who need it aren’t getting it.”

The funds taken from Misja’s paycheck have been sitting in an escrow account maintained by the PSEA for three years.

“My paycheck says ‘voluntary deduction,’” Misja said. “I assure you, it’s not voluntary.”

“The point for me is simple, this case is about my individual freedom as an American and as guaranteed under the Constitution. I am for the freedom of all teachers to choose to associate or not. I support people’s rights to choose to be in a union, but the union’s politics violate my faith, and the law in Pennsylvania allows me to honor my faith. I demand a full accounting of where my forcibly-taken monies have gone and what they have supported.”

Misja said that the recent release of several undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal organs has only strengthened her resolve to have the union honor her choice of charity.

“I have been watching the horrific Planned Parenthood videos and am even further appalled that any part of my forced teacher union contributions are going to fund not only the butchering of innocent human babies but the sale of their body parts,” Misja said.

“I believe teachers may be unaware that their union dues, forced or voluntary, support such atrocious practice against the most vulnerable and innocent in our society. Teachers need to thoroughly investigate what their dues support.”

“Freedom, to me, is having the choice to not donate to causes that violate one’s deeply held moral beliefs,” Misja said. “The murder of babies and the sale of their precious body for profit violates my beliefs.”

Misja said that she has a right to direct her own funds where she sees fit.

“It’s all I want to do, to teach and to teach well. I will not give up my fight, and now, I feel even more strongly that I cannot.”

James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, said Misja’s lawsuit “shows the importance of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear Friedrichs v. CTA.”

“Government unions have become highly politicized,” Sherk said. “The union objected to money going to a charity that helps women in crisis pregnancies simply because that charity did not endorse abortion. Teachers should have the freedom to spend—or give away—their money as they see fit. They should not be forced to pay dues to a union that fights against their most deeply held beliefs, nor should unions get a veto over where forgone dues get redirected.”


Australia: Religious groups warn students will leave state schools after religion lessons are dumped in Left-run Victoria

Axing religious instruction from the Victorian curriculum could drive students away from state schools and into the non-government system, religious providers have warned.

The state government's announcement on Friday that special religious instruction would be moved out of regular class times from 2016 was warmly welcomed by the Australian Education Union and many public education advocates, who have long argued that the current arrangement was at odds with a secular public school system.

But chaplaincy organisation Access Ministries, the main provider of religious instruction, said the decision had eroded "equality and opportunity".

Access Ministries spokesman Rob Ward said state school parents who could not afford, or chose not to send their children to faith-based schools would suffer.

"The decision seems to emphasise secularism at the expense of faith."  He said it would lead to more parents choosing faith-based schools over state schools.

Under the changes, weekly 30-minute SRI classes will be moved to lunch time or before and after school, making way for new new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics, and respectful relationship education.

United Jewish Education Board president Yossi Goldfarb said removing SRI from the curriculum could deter Jewish families from sending their children to state schools.

"I think there are certainly many Jewish families who choose a school partially because of the SRI program that is offered at the school."

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said the government had created chaos for parents and broken an election promise.

"Parents in schools across Victoria will face the prospect of juggling new and varied after-school hours pick-ups just to suit the ideological whims of Daniel Andrews."

Education Minister James Merlino said state schools would not lose enrolments.

"We've got a fantastic education system in Victoria and it's up to parents where they send their children."

Mr Merlino said it was unjustifiable to devote half an hour of the curriculum a week to only 20 per cent of primary school students.

No learning took place when SRI was provided within class time, he said.

Australian Principals Federation Victorian president Julie Podbury said it was "completely unacceptable" that her members had not been consulted about the major change to the curriculum.

"This change will cause major repercussions in some schools to school planning, staffing, programs and more importantly to relationships with community groups. These relationships have been built up over many years and are hard earned."

The number of primary school students in SRI plummeted after the state government changed its policy in 2011, requiring parents to "opt in" to the classes rather than "opt out".

Enrolments fell from 92,808 Victorian students in 2013 to 53,361 in 2014 – a 42 per cent plunge.

East Bentleigh Primary School assistant principal Sue Jackson welcomed the changes, saying they would give teachers more time to focus on an already crowded curriculum.

Ms Jackson said the primary school offered Jewish SRI to about 25 students, who have to catch up on class work after attending the religious lessons.

The school will continue offering SRI but shift it to either lunchtime or after school.

The Greens said changes to SRI did not go far enough. Greens education spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik said children needed to play, rest and socialise during lunch time, not "be cooped up in the class room doing SR."

"While the removal of SRI from formal class teaching hours is certainly a step forward, it doesn't go far enough. SRI should be removed from government schools completely."


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