One’s First Amendment right may harm another’s

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Many high school bands practice all summer in preparation for the first halftime performance under the “Friday Night Lights” of high school football. How would it be to find out that after all that practice, your first performance would be canceled by a court order?

This is exactly what happened to the Brandon High School band. It was not allowed to perform last Friday night because it was planning to play the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

This decision by the Rankin County School Board and District Office was the direct result of a lawsuit filed in 2013 by a student over a series of Christian meetings that were held on school property. The district later settled the lawsuit and admitted it had violated that student’s First Amendment rights.

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Fast-forward to this July when U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, a President Barack Obama appointee, ruled that the district had violated its earlier agreement after a Christian minister prayed at the beginning of an awards ceremony.

During this last violation, Judge Reeves came down hard on the district, ordering it to pay thousands of dollars in fines and any subsequent violation would result in a $10,000 fine.

In his decision, Reeves ordered that: “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.”

Who can blame the Rankin County Board for making its decision about not allowing the band to perform? The $10,000 fine for any future violations made the conclusion easy for the board to reach.

Word spread around town quickly about the decision reached by the board, but the story gets better. During halftime, one person stood up and started to sing, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee.” People in the stands begin to stand and hundreds joined in singing the hymn, making it an unbelievable experience for those in attendance.

It seems that our country is getting away from the core values of our Christian belief that most Southerners were raised believing. Hopefully soon, Judge Reeves will get that message.

(“Our View” is an unsigned editorial representing the general opinion of The Oxford EAGLE editorial board, which includes Publisher Tim Phillips, Editor Stephanie Rebman, Managing Editor Rob Sigler, City Editor Alyssa Schnugg and photographer Bruce Newman.)