“Christian students shouldn’t be censored at public elementary schools because of their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “When religious content is censored by a public school while the content of other performances discussing similar topics is allowed, we have a major violation of a student’s constitutional rights.”
Several days after the Jan. 14 audition for the annual Superior Street Elementary School Talent Show–which had no content restrictions on the songs, dances, or other talents that the elementary students were permitted to perform, the mother was told by SSES Principal Jerilyn Schubert that her child was not permitted to perform to the song “We Shine” because of its religious message, which she considered “offensive” and a violation of the “separation of church and state.”
When the concerned parent explained that the song represents her child–who selected the song and practiced for months –and not the school, and that there were no restrictions on what students could perform in the show, Schubert asserted that other students performing songs with profane and vulgar lyrics were also told to select different songs… in essence equating religious lyrics with profanity and vulgarity. Schubert went on to ask the mother why her child couldn’t “pick a song that does not say ‘Jesus’ so many times?”
The show takes place in the evening, the community is invited to attend, and students are not required to attend. Songs approved by officials for the show are “Freak the Freak Out,” focusing on relationship problems, “Shake It Up,” with the theme of dancing and celebrating, and “Eye of the Tiger,” with lyrics stating that “we kill with the skill to survive.”
Daniel R. Watkins of Newport Beach, one of nearly 1,900 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit B.H. v. Garcia, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division- Los Angeles.