BRANDON, Miss. – What happens at band camp, apparently stays at band camp.
The Brandon High School band practiced for months in the heat to perform a special half-time song during the current football season, but a court order over the summer means it was all for nothing, News Channel 3 reports.
The marching band was benched from playing “How Great Thou Art” during last Friday’s football game halftime show over a court order this summer that prohibits any religious-type activity on campus.
The court order stems from a 2013 settlement with a former student who sued the Rankin County School District over prayers and other religious activities at the school. The student filed a motion of contempt of court this summer over a prayer given at a voluntary honors assembly six months after the initial settlement, and Judge Carlton Reeves – appointed by President Obama in 2010 – sided with the student in July and ordered the district to pay $7,500 for violating the agreement, the Associated Press reports.
According to the court order: “Defendants are permanently enjoined from including prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event including but not limited to assemblies, graduations, award ceremonies, athletic events and any other school event. That means administrators, teachers and staff of the Rankin County School District may not participate in any religious activity, or solicit or encourage religious activities at school or while performing duties as an RCSD employee.”
Now, district officials are apparently playing it safe, as school board members voted to bench the band and ditch the performance students had worked on since February, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
“When I picked the halftime show in late February of last year it was with full administrative support, but the Rankin County School Board has decided that we are not allowed to perform the half time show due to the recent court rulings,” band director Tim Cagle told the news site.
He said the board had “no choice” but to comply or risk another fine, this time $10,000.
“If we were to perform this show, taking a chance of how it would be perceived by others, and the court deems it is in violation of previous rulings, not only would the Rankin County School District face harsh fines, but also RCSD would be forced to terminate the employment of anyone associated with the decision to perform the show,” Cagle wrote.
The district wrote in a statement that it’s “very saddened students will not be able to perform their halftime show they have worked so hard on this summer.”
Parents and community members, however, are not bound by the court order, and they showed their support for students and God by performing their own impromptu rendition of “How Great Thou Art” that’s seen been viewed well over 100,000 times on YouTube.
Three-quarters of the spectators at Friday’s game stood in the stands and proudly bellowed the classic hymn as several recorded with their phones before breaking out in cheer.
The crowd’s response to the band’s prohibition was undoubtedly music to the ears of local Salvation Army Captain Ken Chapman, who spoke out about the attack on religious students in the district to WJTV 12.
“I’m saying it’s time for Christians and other people to stand up and say we’re not going to take this anymore we’re going to make a difference, we’re going to be heard,” he said.