Ticklish Ears

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The Devil and the Marching Band

Sorry for the lack of posting. We were on Fall Break at the end of last week, and so I took the family up to the DC area (where we lived previously). We stayed with and visited with friends, reminisced, showed the daughter all the places we took her when she was a baby, and I even got a little work done.

One of the things I miss about living in DC is the Washington Post. So I had my fill of it over the course of several days. A story in Sunday’s Post (I just love the Sunday Post) caught my eye: “‘Devil’ Cast Out of Pr. William” (subscription no doubt required).

Apparently, a local Northern Virginia Band was preparing for a Peach Bowl appearance, and one of the songs they planned to perform was Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

But early this month, a local newspaper, the Potomac News, published a letter by a Woodbridge resident who, after having seen the C.D. Hylton Bulldawg Marching Band perform the country-western hit at a football game, wondered how a song about the devil could be played at school events, because of the separation of church and state.

Fearing bad public reaction, Hylton’s longtime band director, Dennis Brown, pulled the song from the playlist. “I was just being protective of my students. I didn’t want any negative publicity for C.D. Hylton High School,” he said.

Now it would be easy to dump on the letter-writer, who, as it turns out is a homeschooler, but if you read the whole article, it seems clear that he was just trying to make a point about how a song with “Devil” in the title is OK, but a more Christian song would probably be disallowed. The editors of the Potomac News concurred:

The editorial staff reads every letter sent to this newspaper and it was agreed that Mr. McLean [ed.: the letter-writer] was only using the band’s song selection to make a point about religious references in public schools. It was done, the staff believed, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

So, either the band director or somebody above him is just incredibly humor-challenged, or they’ve become sensitive to the point of absurdity. How else to explain killing the song based on one stinking letter?

—-update 10/18/05
Rewrote the last paragraph, which I botched last night.

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