'Silent Night' Gets Reprieve
Thursday, December 15, 2005
School agrees to perform beloved carol after 1st secularizing traditional lyrics
A Wisconsin school that had secularized the lyrics of the beloved Christmas carol "Silent Night" has now agreed to change the words back to the original after receiving countless phone calls and e-mails about the issue.
Liberty Counsel, the law firm working on behalf of parents upset about the secularization of the carol, says it was both public pressure and two letters attorneys sent to the school that prompted the change.
According to a statement from the organization, Debra Messer, administrator of the Dodgeville School District confirmed that "'Silent Night' will be sung. 'Cold in the Night' will not be sung."
As WorldNetDaily reported, for performance in its "winter program," kids who attend Ridgeway Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wis., were scheduled sing the following lyrics to the tune of "Silent Night":
Cold in the night, no one in sight, winter winds whirl and bite, how I wish I were happy and warm, safe with my family out of the storm.
This year's winter program also includes decorating classrooms with Santa Claus, Kwanzaa symbols, menorahs and Labafana, a mythical witch that's a part of traditional Christmas celebrations in Italy.
Letters the law group sent to the school demanded a change in the winter program. Failure to do so would have resulted in legal action, Liberty Counsel said.
Courts have ruled that public schools may include religious songs as part of a teaching or performance program. The Supreme Court once noted: "Music without sacred music, architecture minus the cathedral, or painting without the scriptural themes would be eccentric and incomplete, even from a secular view." Religious songs along with other secular holiday songs are permissible.
"We are pleased that the children at Ridgeway Elementary School will not be singing 'Cold in the Night,'" Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel president and general counsel, said in a statement. "This secularized rendition mocks one of the world's best-known Christmas songs. Christmas is a state and federal holiday. We don't change the names of any other federal holiday, nor do we change the words to songs commemorating these holidays. It is absurd to have children sing 'Cold in the Night' in place of 'Silent Night.'"
Controversy over Christmas and its celebration in the public square has reached a fever pitch this year with battles raging over everything from what to call evergreen trees to whether or not retailers allow their employees to wish customers a "merry Christmas."
"Silent Night" is the most recorded song in history. The carol was written by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr. Gruber led the singing of his new song for the first time during an 1818 Christmas Eve service in Oberndorf, Austria, accompanying the choir on guitar.