Skip to comments.Wiccan to sit out two Christmas songs
Posted on 12/13/2009 7:30:38 AM PST by markomalley
Fifteen-year-old Katarina Keen won't sing along to "Silent Night" or "Listen to the Stars," two Christian songs planned for her choir's upcoming Christmas concert at Borger High School. But she will sing "Jingle Bells" and "A Carol in Winter."
Katarina and her family are Wiccan.
The Borger High choirs have given a concert every December, with traditional religious Christmas songs, but this is the first time in director Johnny Miller's 23-year career that any Borger student had issues with the religious themes in the music, he said.
A concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday will feature a ninth- and 10th-grade choir and an 11th- and 12th-grade choir, with each ensemble singing five songs. The concert will take place in the Borger High auditorium.
"We're doing our best to accommodate everyone's wishes," Miller said. "It's just difficult, because it's a complete 180 of what I have always done."
Every year, in communities across the nation, Christmas activities in public schools spur conversations regarding religion in schools, said Charles Haynes, a First Amendment scholar who has spent 20 years helping communities find common ground.
"Many Americans understand that a lot is at stake on how we handle religion in public schools," said Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.
Students began preparing in October for the concert in Borger, and Katarina said Miller had planned for the choir to sing Christian songs. She and her mother, Jean Keen, told Miller she couldn't sing those songs because she's Wiccan.
The Keens also have raised concerns this year about prayers in class and a prayer board posted in the choir room.
Miller said he gave students permission to lead prayers in class Mondays, at their request. The prayer board was a student-led activity, he said. Miller revamped the concert to include a wider variety of secular songs for the holiday season.
As a Wiccan family, the Keens worship Mother Earth.
"We don't believe in Satanism," Jean Keen said. "We worship trees, the solstices."
Wicca began in the early 19th century as a religion that emphasizes growth through harmony in diversity, knowledge, wisdom and exploration, according to a Web site for the Church and School of Wicca.
While their Christian peers in Borger celebrate Christmas, the Keens are preparing for one of eight Wiccan holidays, the Yule, in celebration of the winter solstice Dec. 21.
"It's not a very pushy religion," Katarina said. "It's really easy to worship. We accept everyone, and we don't diss anyone. We don't put any other religion down. We accept them while other people just judge them."
The music selected for the Borger choir concert is standard choral literature, even though some pieces are religious in content, said Miller, a member of the Texas Music Educators Association and the Texas Choral Directors Association. The choir has produced all-state singers, choral directors and garnered awards in concert performance and sight-reading from the University Interscholastic League.
"Choral music has its roots in the church. In order to teach it accurately, you have to teach it from whence it came," Miller said. "I teach the foundation or the building blocks so these students can go out with a well-rounded foundation in choral music."
Some school districts have staged concerts that mirror a church service, while others have excluded religious content entirely, Haynes said. Either scenario can result in conflict, the former creating a potential issue with the First Amendment and the latter producing a community backlash.
The better solution is to make a "good-faith attempt" to teach religious material in the context of discussing cultures and traditions, being careful not to promote a particular theology, Haynes said. Schools also should provide a reasonable, limited opt-out policy that is specific to certain songs or a lesson, he said.
"Sometimes being religious comes with a price, and it makes the student feel like an outsider," he said. "A school cannot avoid all of that. A family has to make a decision what kind of school environment they want. In a public school, (there are) certain things a child is exposed to."
Randall High School's choir concert Sunday will include "Of the Father's Love Begotten," "Jesu Bambino" and an arrangement of "Deck the Halls," director Marcus Bradford said. The choir will end, per tradition, with the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah."
"I try to vary styles of literature, sacred and secular literature," Bradford said. "We're not teaching a theology of anything. We're really teaching music history and culture."
In Borger, Katarina won't have to sing compositions that are counter to her faith, Superintendent Clifton Stephens said.
"We've bent over backwards to be cooperative with (the family)," Stephens said. "We've always taken time to listen to concerns they have."
For Katarina, though, the experience this year in choir isn't the fun class she had envisioned, where she would learn songs in a team environment.
"This is school and not church," she said. "I was the one kid that stood out."
Katarina Keen, front, 15, is a freshman member of the Borger High School choir. Katarina and her family, clockwise from back right, father Phillip, sister Kennedy, sister Cheyenne, brother Phillip II and mother Jean, are Wiccan.
The problem with public schools...(yet another one)
It looks to me like tree worship is hard on the eyes.
“As a Wiccan family, the Keens worship Mother Earth.”
....I wonder if Mother Earth is going to give them the 24th and 25th off from work with pay?...they better call their boss and make arrangements to go in that day if they don’t want to accept Christmas.
They worship Trees?
I hope their house is made out of Concrete....or do they consider their home a grave.....poor things/sarc...
The time will come when Miss Katarina is on her face before Jesus Christ like every other human being who has ever existed.
And then where will her "Wiccan" brethren be?
Pretty unhappy bunch of perpetual victims
What an ugly bunch!!
Swimming in lakes of fire.
Perfect. She is going to sit out the songs that offend her. What’s the problem?
If Wiccans are so accepting of other people’s religion why can’t she sing Christmas Songs?
What a bunch. Ah...well, they found a way to get some attention which might not otherwise be very forthcoming.
Bubbles! One of the greatest TV characters of all times!
I’m still laughing!!!! *<:O)
Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead. Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed. Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go, Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out. Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low. Let them know The Wicked Witch is dead!
“We don’t believe in Satanism,” Jean Keen said. “We worship trees, the solstices.”
Yes, but you can bet your last dollar that satan believes in you.
On another note, what the heck is wrong with this stupid school? Don’t they know that the majority has to hide their convictions so as to not offend the minority?
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