A prominent atheist group has decided to withdraw its complaint against a music teacher who played a portion of George Frederic Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" during morning announcements.
Aleta Ledendecker of the East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to the Oak Ridger in early January, saying the group has decided not to pursue the issue, noting that there are "more egregious" Church-State separation issues to address.
In her letter, Ledendecker noted that the school district was not going to capitulate to her request to refrain from using the music piece.
"FFRF prefers to resolve issues through simple requests, and in this case the school system was not amenable to making changes," Ledendecker said.
"This issue would probably be difficult to litigate. Even though there were two families who complained to FFRF-ETC about this music selection, not all complainants wish to go as far as litigation," she added.
Ledendecker explained that some of the complainants were afraid of "overt and subtle retaliation" from the community and school system for publicly airing their objections about the school's decision to use the music piece.
According to Christian News Network, Ledendecker sent an email to Linden Elementary School Principal Roger Ward in September to complain about the airing of "Hallelujah Chorus" over the loudspeaker.
She contended that the use of the music piece can be seen as proselytizing, which she said was prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. She urged the principal to ensure that no religious-themed music would be aired in the future.
The school, however, noted that the teacher only used the piece because the class was learning about George Frederic Handel that week and only 20-30 seconds of the song was aired.
"We strongly disagreed with her (Ledendecker's) position and, through our attorney, we responded promptly to the writer suggesting that she was in error," Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers told the Oak Ridger in September.
Ward pointed to quotations from the FFRF's own website to defend the school's use of the music, including a statement that courts considered the "proportion of religious songs sung compared to secular."
The principal also noted that the piece would only be used 1/36th of the time over the course of the 36-week school year.
"If a curriculum is balanced, the inclusion of some classical sacred music in an educational context may not convey endorsement," the principal stated, quoting from the FFRF's website.
Borchers said at the time that Ledendecker made a request for public documents regarding the music curriculum. Ledendecker confirmed that she made the request on the advice of FFRF's attorneys, but said that she still does not know if there are any legal issues at that time.
"We prefer not to go to litigation," Ledendecker said at the time, noting that she prefers a "peaceful, cooperative solution" that satisfies parents, as well as separation of church and state issues.