Federal Court Upholds Ban on Instrumental Performance of 'Ave Maria' at Graduation Ceremony
This is a local story, any thoughts?
Federal Court Upholds Ban on Instrumental Performance of 'Ave Maria' at
Graduation Ceremony; Rutherford Institute Plans to Appeal Case
SEATTLE, Wash.-A federal district court has dismissed a lawsuit over a
school's decision to forbid a student woodwind ensemble's performance of the
instrumental piece "Ave Maria" at a high school graduation ceremony.
Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had filed suit against the Everett
School District, charging that the school's actions violated student Kathryn
Nurre's right to freedom of speech and to be free from hostility to
In dismissing the case, the U.S. District Court in Seattle ruled that
although music is considered a form of speech that can be protected, the
school district was within its legal rights to control the content of any
speech at the graduation ceremony in order "to keep religion out of
graduation as a whole." Taking issue with the court's ruling that the school's
actions did not violate Nurre's First Amendment rights, Institute attorneys
plan to appeal the case.
"Despite what the district court said, this case is a perfect example of the
extremes to which school officials will go in their efforts to sanitize our
nation's public schools of anything even remotely related to religion," said
John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "Schools cannot
ban performances and restrict students' right to free expression whenever
those forms of expression might have some minimal connection to religion."
In 2006, members of the senior high woodwind ensemble at Henry M. Jackson
High School in Snohomish County, Wash., elected to perform an instrumental
arrangement of German composer Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria" at the school's
graduation ceremonies in June 2006. School officials have traditionally
allowed the senior members of the high school's top performing instrumental
group, the woodwind ensemble, to choose a song from their repertoire to
perform as a farewell during graduation ceremonies. Previous selections
included "On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss," a popular composition based off
the hymn "It is Well Within My Soul." Thus, having previously performed "Ave
Maria" at a public concert, Kathryn Nurre and the other seniors in the wind
ensemble unanimously chose to perform it again at their graduation ceremony
on June 17, 2006.
The senior members proposed to perform Biebl's piece instrumentally; no
lyrics or words would be sung or said, nor did the senior members intend
that any lyrics would be printed in ceremony programs or otherwise
distributed to members of the audience. However, despite the absence of
lyrics, the superintendent of Everett School District No. 2 refused to allow
the ensemble to perform "Ave Maria" at their graduation ceremony, allegedly
because she believed the piece to be religious in nature. The ensemble was
then instructed to select a piece for graduation that was entirely secular
in nature. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute filed suit against the
school district in June 2006 on behalf of Kathryn Nurre, a member of the
high school woodwind ensemble.
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