You can call it whatever you want. But, a tree lighting ceremony celebrates a Christmas tree: a symbol of the Christmas holiday. While it’s important to be welcoming to all, it also should not controversial for musical groups to use their talents to celebrate the real meaning of the season.
It certainly should not be banned.
But unfortunately, that’s what happened at James Madison University.
As local WHSV3 recently reported, an acapella group on campus, Into Hymn, was told via e-mail from the JMU Student Government Association that they would not be allowed to perform Christian songs at Friday’s tree lighting ceremony. Apparently the event was a secular one meant to include all people.
Apparently, having to hear a song you are just as likely to hear on the radio would be too exclusive for a college campus.
Into Hymn, a Christian all female acapella group, was not permitted to sing Mary Did You Know. The group is inspired by Ephesians 5:19, which reads, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Maria Caputo, who is a member of the group, shared that “it’s disappointing when a group can’t express their beliefs or just show what they’ve been working on.” Caputo’s word choice is noteworthy, as the music “express[es] their beliefs,” and need not be an expression or an endorsement of the school.
Also included was a statement from Hollis Young, who went to the lighting and could understand where the school was coming from. “There’s going to be a ton of different religions here, and if everyone wanted to be incorporated, that would be fine, but they would have had to reach out to everyone and see if everyone could join,” Young said.
Rachel Clark was a little more accepting of Christian songs, and suggested letting multiple religious organizations each sing a song. “It would kind of be a way for JMU to show yes, we accept all religions; in fact, we’re going to let them perform for you,” she said.
While some may understand the reason for telling Into Hymn they may not perform a Christian song, it was an unnecessary move from the Student Government.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME), an objective source, believes that “[t]he omission of sacred music from the school curriculum would result in an incomplete educational experience.” Also discussed is how pieces may be used as music learning, and that older students should be able to recognize the neutrality of such music.
And, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not exclusive or unfair to acknowledge what federal holiday is actually being celebrated on December 25.
The group stuck to their beliefs, however, and released a statement Saturday morning on their Facebook page, detailing the reason why they chose not to perform, all while still being understanding and honest about the Student Government’s decision.
It’s encouraging to hear that the group has never been discriminated against on their campus. If this is indeed the case, and they’re allowed to exist and operate without such issue otherwise, why aren’t they allowed to commemorate one of the most important Christian holidays?
Also mentioned on their Facebook is how popular their song was, which on Monday morning they released a link to for a free download.