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School Chorus Sings Altered 'Silent Night,' Removes Religious References

Secular rendition sparks outrage.

A screenshot of the R.J.O. Intermediate School fifth-grade chorus video posted on Youtube by user moosnout on Dec. 15.
A screenshot of the R.J.O. Intermediate School fifth-grade chorus video posted on Youtube by user moosnout on Dec. 15.
A Kings Park parent is not keeping silent about being offended by the school chorus's rendition of holiday carol "Silent Night."

Kevin McDonald said a Kings Park school teacher removed all religious references from the lyrics of "Silent Night" to avoid offending non-Christians at a fifth-grade holiday concert held at Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School on Dec. 12. 

Read More: McDonald Offended by Edited Silent Night Lyrics

"Silent Night at its core is a religious song. It's a sacred, religious hymn that tells the story of Jesus's birth," McDonald said at the Dec. 17 Board of Education meeting. 

Superintendent Susan Agruso and R.J.O Intermediate School principal Rudy Massimo said the chorus director pulled out lines of the song with the most religious meaning, as "the chorale director thought it was an appropriate way to represent the song without offending those of other faiths."

"The non-religious words were cobbled together to create something resembling the song and something that would probably pass public scrutiny regarding the separation of church and state," McDonald said. "It should have been off limits." 

YouTube video of the R.J.O. Intermediate School's fifth-grade chorus performing the altered "Silent Night" was posted by user moosnout on Dec. 15, 2013. 

'This is the first time I've ever performed this song with any chorus," said the Kings Park chorus teacher on video.  

Kings Park Board of Education issued an apology on the school district's website on Thursday afternoon. 

"The Board of Education sincerely apologizes to our community members who were offended by the change of lyrics to the song Silent Night and we share in your sentiment. This action was not approved by the Board of Education or district administration, nor is it their role to approve the songs chosen for our concerts," reads their statement. 

The board trustees assured community members it will be taking steps to ensure something similar does not happen in the future. 

Watch the performance above, which shows lines of the popular Christmas carol were entirely removed from the song and performance rather than altered.  
Jake Mooney December 24, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Beckie....You complain about Christian politicians passing laws based on their personal beliefs, but you seem to think it's OK for anti-Christian politicians to pass laws based on their personal beliefs. Somehow I don't feel anything being "shoved down my throat" except the attack on Christianity. I believe what I want and allow others to do the same. Try it sometime.
Johnny December 24, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Beckie, You're dropping so called "facts" like they're indisputable law. First off, you claim King James was an open homosexual, actually, that's not indisputable fact. Although some believe he might have been, accusations of his homosexuality were fueled by some of his enemies and surfaced after his death, when he was not around to defend himself. http://www.chick.com/reading/books/158/158_03.asp http://www.wayoflife.org/index_files/was_king_james_a_homosexual.html You are not wrong when you call December 25th a pagan holiday. It is pretty widely accepted that Jesus was probably born in Late summer, early September because the Shephards were not in the fields in December. The Bible was never specific on a date or month for Christ's birth, so the Christians in the early days used December 25th to kind of steal away the date from the pagan gods and honor Christ instead. I think a more proper way to say what you said is that December 25th (Not Christmas) was a pagan holiday.
Karen MacDougall December 24, 2013 at 09:15 PM
The blame for this mess is multifocal, but rests largely on the failure of our public education system. We and our children have been taught, for a variety of reasons, a rewritten history of the role of God and the Bible in framing this once great country and our government. We are told a bold faced lie about the true meaning of separation of Church and State. There is no such thing. The Bible was a government sanctioned textbook in everyclass for 300 years and it served EVERYONE well in it's universal and timeless principles. All religions, even the very few atheists at the time were all in favor of JudeoChristian principles that were taught in every classroom. The bottom line is when the world is rid of God and Biblical principles, we are left with no framework for moral behavior or any reference for right and wrong. Secular humanism and moral relativism are all dead end paths that lead to death, slavery and tyranny. I am personally ashamed and disappointed at the lack of moral character and backbone exhibited by my school district. Those who are offended by JudeoChristian principles in schools and the public square have much to be grateful for in those values brought to this country and their families by people of faith. My own 81 year old Christian mother speaks of going to public school and starting everyday in the auditorium with a prayer given by her Jewish principal. No one....and I mean no one...would have dreamed of taking offence because it was agreed by all that a daily reminder that we are all held to a moral standard by a moral giver. Since the 1960's and 70's, when some know it all smarty pants with letters behind their names (as I like to say they educated themselves into imbecility) decided to take the Bible and Biblical references out of schools, crime, teen pregnancy, abortion, drug use, sexual promiscuity, divorce, suicide etc., etc. have all skyrocketed. Duh. I do not need to spend tax payer dollars for some dopey study to tell me what the real problem is. We have replaced virtue and morals with false principles of diversity and multiculturalism. We do not have more tolerance because of this but less. Draw the line in the sand for moral principles and stand like a rock for God. Merry Christmas...... Not Happy Holidays.
Susan Morrison December 24, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Karen, as a teacher and a Christian, I need to point out certain things to you. First, the Bible has not been a sanctioned textbook in any class I ever attended or taught in the last 65 years. Second, the Bible has been used to justify slavery, misogny, and many other very bad things. It is a record of the Jewish people's (and a few gentiles') encounters with God. Very little of it is the actual Word of God - really! Much has happened in the world since the last book of the Bible was written -- in history, theology, science. The Bible is not a useful reference work in a public school, only in a church. Morality still is taught in schools - the "do unto others ..." part.
PCycle December 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM
..........Merry Christmas Robin.Looking forward to next years concert.Hopefully one with no controversy.
Craig December 24, 2013 at 10:37 PM
That was perfect Karen. Merry Christmas everyone!
mary ann December 25, 2013 at 09:08 AM
Singer Blake Shelton did the same thing! He sings a nice song, but changed the lines...saw him on TV yesterday and could not believe what I was hearing. It was a CHRISTMAS song but the lines were changed not to include anything about Jesus. I am surprised and disappointed. See if you can catch it -- it's probably on today. Sign of the times. Just like this year my neighborhood we usually have a Nativity scene...not this year! I waited and waited and it never appeared. However, there was a huge Menorah for Chanukah, which I thought was very nice. Maybe it's best if we all just do our own decorations and forget the public displays so we can avoid dissent. If there's not going to be a Nativity scene for Christmas, then please do not have the Chanukah lights in open neighborhood spaces either. STOP changing the words in songs...pullleeeze. Amen.
KPLifer December 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM
It is just a song. Move on, it was so last week It just shows that people have way too much time on their hands.
Kerry Smith December 27, 2013 at 08:01 AM
@KPLifer - just a song?????? Silent Night is way more than just a song. It is a sacred Christian hymn that tells the story of our savior's birth. It is a hymn that I am proud to sing, proud to believe in and proud to says bring me to tears every Christmas eve at St. Joseph's. I am beyond proud to stand with my fellow Kings Parkers who "have too much time on their hands" that stood up and were outraged over this blatant disrespect for Christianity. Just a song???? I think not.....
Get Off My Lawn December 27, 2013 at 09:12 AM
Ooops. The brainwashing of your children was just exposed. Be more careful schools!!!
Sick and tired December 27, 2013 at 05:31 PM
The fact that so many are so offended by the change to the lyrics--because the song is a "sacred Christian hymn"--just reinforces the notion that the song should not have been sung in a public school in the first place.
j December 27, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Sick n tired....the kids are not forced to sing this or even be in the chorus. It is an extracurricular activity and the kids who chose to n teacher went in before school.
Craig December 27, 2013 at 05:51 PM
That is your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it. However, that is not the law and federal courts have reinforced this.
Craig December 27, 2013 at 05:53 PM
My comment was in response to 'sick and tired'
Sick and tired December 27, 2013 at 05:56 PM
@ J I'm not certain that fifth graders are not required to take chorus. Even if they are not, I disagree with you. What you are essentially saying is that a kid who wants to take chorus should be compelled to sing a deeply religious song about Christ the Savior no matter what his/her religion. I do not believe that that is appropriate in a public school whether it is an extracurricular activity or not.
Sick and tired December 27, 2013 at 06:09 PM
@Craig The law also does not prohibit the butchering of the lyrics to Silent Night. (And I am assuming that you are correct about the 'law'.) Just because the law allows something to be done does not mean it's a good idea to actually do it. And judging by the emotional responses exhibited by some above, it clearly is not a good idea to sing the song, or butcher the lyrics.
Get Off My Lawn December 27, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Next they'll be singing the Socialist anthem "Solidarity Forever" (won't be any opposition to that though)
Susan Morrison December 27, 2013 at 07:59 PM
So that everyone in this multicultural nation can more or less get along because the rules are clear, there is a lawyerly concept called a "bright line." In public education these days, the bright line allows secular celebrations of holidays around the winter and spring solstices (ancient celebrations far pre-dating Christmas, which is an invented Christian holiday anyhow) -- Santa Claus and holiday trees (from Druidic traditions) plus bunnies and chicks (fertility symbols) are fine, but not Jesus. Students should not be expected to sing teacher initiated and led religious songs in public school any more than they should be expected to participate in teacher initiated and led daytime fasts during Ramadan. Nor should they be expected to bow their heads in prayer. But they are welcome to say personal prayers anytime they wish, preferably not out loud. And students can and should study world religions, including their theology, and should analyze the religious perspective of authors whose works they read. But if the teacher is doing his or her job right, the students will NOT be more than vaguely aware of the teacher's religious views or affiliation.
Karen MacDougall December 27, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Susan, did I hear you correctly? Christmas is an invented Christian holiday? Also, I find it rather telling that you refer to a lawyerly concept rather that the far more important moral concept in education. This is what happens when progressives get a hold of education, which is exactly what they have done for decades and they have destroyed it. I once heard a prominent educator say, "It is the job of educators to make children as unlike their parents as possible." This is what Hitler did. He removed God and brainwashed a whole country.
Susan Morrison December 27, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Karen, yes you heard me correctly. It is historical fact that the early Christian Church decided to commemorate Christ's birth on December 25, not because Jesus was born on that day, but to compete with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. The actual date of Jesus birth is not recorded. Moral education can be taught without reference to a deity. Hitler did not remove God from education. Hitler was not anti-Christian. Rather, he hijacked the church and made it a supporter of his own nefarious plans. Good Christians who objected ended up sharing the fate of the Jews and other "social misfits" such as homosexuals, the mentally ill, mentally retarded, and anyone else who didn't exemplify the Teutonic ideal.
Craig December 27, 2013 at 10:43 PM
Susan - so why not Jesus? Christmas is a federal holiday. As you mention, it was created to honor Christ's birth. So therefore, it is the same as President's day which isn't George Washington's or Lincoln's birthday but are federal holidays to celebrate their births. MLK day to celebrate his birthday but does not land on his birthday. Singing songs about these people I am sure are fine but not Jesus. He is off limits because others believe he is the son of God? As I mentioned earlier, if I started a religion worshiping George Washington as a god we would no longer be able to celebrate his birthday in school? The 'made up holiday' applies to all holidays does it not? What holiday has not been made up by people? So why mention 'made up' here other than to ruffle some feathers? This 'bright line' you mention and 'wall of separation' others have mentioned are also made up - not in the Constitution. These are interpretations. @sick and tired - yes, I agree. It was not a good idea for them to sing the song that way. They could have decided not to sing it at all and no one would have had a problem.
mary ann December 28, 2013 at 10:32 AM
"One nation...under GOD". Happy New Year!
Sick and tired December 28, 2013 at 03:46 PM
@Mary ann--for what it's worth, "under God" was added in 1954 (in response to fears associated with the Cold War and communism). @ Craig--the only federal court decision specific to Silent Night (or similar songs) that I can find is "Florey v. Sioux Falls School District"--decided by the United States Court of Appeals, Eight Circuit ( Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota) It was a 2-1 decision somewhat equivocally finding in favor of a South Dakota school district which promulgated rules which allowed Silent Night to be sung during a Christmas chorus.
mary ann December 28, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Always glad to learn something new. Peace out. The end.
Susan Morrison December 28, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Christmas is the only federal holiday that has reference to a particular religion. As such, it is vulnerable. If Christians were smart, they'd celebrate the religious aspect at home and in church and be grateful that it's also a secular celebration for all Americans and thus a holiday. But lately Christians have become more and more aggressive in insisting on public celebration of Christmas as a Christian holiday. That, I predict, will eventually result in the holiday being officially renamed.
mary ann December 28, 2013 at 09:14 PM
What are Yom Kippur and ‎Rosh Hashanah? Why are the kids/teachers off from school? People leave work early afternoon when sundown is at 7:00 pm.
Susan Morrison December 28, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are not federal holidays. And, frankly, Christmas is not a holiday, either, for those who work in retail and hospitality. I think we Christians should be grateful for what we have and not push ourselves on others because that will invite push back just as Christian anti-science, anti-everyone who doesn't fit the Christian ideal, etc. attitudes are inviting push back from newly hatched atheists and agnostics, most of whom were raised in Christian homes where they learned to detest Christianity.
lisa costello December 28, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Frankly.you people are boring
Al Beronio January 05, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Susan Morrison, I would like to believe that you are truly speaking from the Christian perspective but I see a subtle put-down of Christianity in every one of your posts. Yes, by all means, let us restrict our practice of religion to our churches and homes. No one less than our President and Hillary Clinton speak of "freedom of worship", rather than "freedom of religion". If that doesn't send chills down the spine of freedom loving Americans, then we are, indeed, doomed. Soon Christians will find it necessary to form an underground church as exists in China and existed in most Communist countries before their downfall.
jackie miller January 05, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Al, sorry to say, you are absolutely correct! :(

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