‘God Bless the USA,’ except in our schools?

Nearly 30 years ago, Lee Greenwood wrote his famous patriotic ballad, “God Bless the USA.” It became a timeless symbol … Continued

Nearly 30 years ago, Lee Greenwood wrote his famous patriotic ballad, “God Bless the USA.” It became a timeless symbol of patriotism following the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Yet, in one New York City school, being “proud to be an America” has been deemed inappropriate for kindergartners.

When Greta Hawkins, the principal at PS 90 in New York City, found out that “God Bless the USA” would be performed at a kindergarten graduation scheduled for next week, “after marching in on a rehearsal,” according to the N.Y. Post, she had the song removed from the program. She told teachers at the school that the song was not “age appropriate” and that she was concerned that it could end up “offending other cultures.”

The school’s chancellor and even Mayor Bloomberg don’t have a problem with this ban.

How far has our politically correct society gone? How could being “proud to be an American” be offensive or inappropriate for children?

According to the New York City Department of Education, the song’s opening lines, “If tomorrow all the things were gone/I’d worked for all my life/And I had to start again/with just my children and my wife,” were just too much for 5 and 6-year-olds to handle.

Really? I’ve read those lines over and over trying to come up with why, out of the entire song, that particular line could possibly be inappropriate for children.

Greenwood says that he wrote that verse about his grandparents who lost their farm –about times being tough but the resolve to move forward –certainly traits I hope are worthy of teaching our children.

In fact, Greenwood was just as shocked as anyone as to how his song could be banned from school. Via the L.A. Times, he issued a statement, saying:

Greenwood is right, but it’s bigger than this particular song being banned from this particular school.

This is just one more example of the assault on patriotism and our Judeo-Christian heritage as a nation. It was one year ago this weekend that NBC inexplicably censored “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance during its telecast of the U.S. Open. It has become an all too familiar occurrence to see patriotic expression attacked.

The fact that Hawkins has agreed to include “America the Beautiful” in the children’s program does not resolve the issue. She is still making her point that we need limits on patriotism–picking and choosing what she deems acceptable expressions of patriotism–that some patriotic songs are inappropriate for children or offensive to some cultures. And the New York school system is acquiescing to this principal’s imposition of selective patriotism.

Some have highlighted the fact that Principal Hawkins is a Jehovah’s Witness (as reported by the N.Y. Post) and that her religion prohibits her from participating in certain patriotic exercises like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. But this entirely misses the point.

We believe in the religious freedom of this principal to refrain from participating in this song. But it is an entire other matter to ruin it for everyone else. This is America and patriotism unites our multicultural society.

We just sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Principal Hawkins on behalf of thousands of concerned citizens, outlining the fact that there is absolutely no legal impediment to the students’ performance of this patriotic song. In fact, “the song’s message of self-sacrifice and patriotism furthers principles that are set forth in New York education law.”

Mayor Bloomberg and the leadership of the New York school system should reverse this ban on “God Bless the USA.”

Regardless of whether New York’s education leaders do the right thing and remove the ban or not, it is encouraging that students and parents are planning to sing “God Bless the USA” on their own following the ceremony. This is patriotism at its finest.

Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice and writes for On Faith’s blogging network at the Washington Post. Matthew Clark is an attorney for the ACLJ.

About

Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Matthew Clark is an attorney at the ACLJ. Follow them on Twitter: @JordanSekulow and @_MatthewClark.
  • Catken1

    Not all Americans share a “Judeo-Christian” culture, or worship a monotheistic male deity, and they are no less American for all that.

    Kids should not be taught, pushed or pressured to make religious assertions in public schools. How would you like your child taught to sing, “Allah bless the USA”, “Thor bless the USA”, or “Kali bless the USA”, and told they were being “politically correct” and “offensive” if they refused, or suggested that it was inappropriate?

    Kids are entitled to express themselves religiously and patriotically all they want. But the school authority figures, acting as representatives of us all, have no business urging particular religious expressions on them, not even yours. Frankly, I find it offensive that my son is taught to say “one nation, under God” in pledging allegiance – as if to say, you cannot have allegiance to this country without allegiance to the majority’s view of deity.

    Think about it from the other’s perspective for once, and stop your smug assumptions that only you and your favored religious belief matters, and that because YOU want your religion favored by schools, you have the right to treat children and parents of other religions as though they were un-American, unimportant, and not worthy of consideration, concern, or respect. Someday you, too, might be in the minority, and might not want to have your patriotism forcibly linked to someone else’s religion.

  • Rhodesway

    We are a Democracy?
    What happened to the Republic?
    In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinborough, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:
    “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.
    From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”
    Oby is headed in this direction – be prepare

  • cricket44

    Another asinine opinion piece from these two. First of all, that song is horrible. Tacky, UNmusical and schmaltz. There are so many other songs the kids could sing, that don’t reference only *one* religion out of many in this country, this is a non-issue.

    Do grow up.

  • persiflage

    No worries – any GOP candidate worth their salt will guarantee to funnel the money back where it belongs – with the 1%. The current mega-millionaire candidate will do that in spades.

    Unless you happen to be one of the fortunate few, be prepared.

    Democracies are undone by stupid people that vote against their own best interests.

  • Sadetec

    In America all religions are equal, but Christianity is more equal than others.

    (And for those poor deluded souls who find themselves in agreement with the above, Google “all animals are equal” for the satirical origin of that paraphrase.)

  • Secular1

    As usual JS is full of scat. It is bad enough that he and his cohorts are deluded in believing in the existence of a non-existent entity and invoking its benediction. That they should request its benediction in a narrow manner for just USA is nothing but public display of their bigotry, xenophobia, & xenocentricity. Spare us all this nonsense about political correctness. JS & cohorts try doing two diametrically opposite things at the same time they want to be politically incorrect as much as possible, yet insist that rest of teh world br politically correct, per their dictates.

    Then coming to that blasted three word phrase that had been inserted into pledge of allegiance, that they are so fond of. The so called conservatives do not have any compunctions that the original pledge has been adulterated by the blasted phrase. When someone tries to correct it they are all up in arms about it. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Rongoklunk

    There are no gods, and never were any. They are mythical by definition.
    Why do we insist on telling our children that there really is a skygod watching over us?
    I’ll believe it when he’s picked up by the Hubble Space telescope. Until then the only rational position is that there are no gods. Grow up people.

  • Talkmaster

    So you are telling me that you are stupid enough to believe there is a Hubble telescope when you’ve never seen it! You and the other ignorant atheists here are the problem with this great country!
    I feel so sorry for all you imbeciles. May God bless your deranged little minds!

  • larryclyons

    Whose god are you referring to? the Judeo-Christian God? Well that discriminates against religions like Buddhism and Hindu beliefs, as well as agnostics and atheists.

    The idea is that by having the school explicitly support “God Bless the USA” is an endorsement of Christianity. That is in direct violation of the First Amendment. End of story.

  • larryclyons

    A perfect example of so called Christian tolerance and charity.

    Thank the odd sods and Ghods this is not a Christian country.

  • larryclyons

    USA love it or leave it. And this genius wants to add and worship the way I tell you too.

    Nice bit of Christian love and tolerance there.

  • larryclyons

    Did we win? Last I checked the country that did the most to win ww2 was the Soviet Union.

    Not exactly a free nation.

    I would also like to point out that in the first treaty signed and was ratified unanimously by the senate of the newly independent US. This senate had many of the founders in it. Article 11 of the treaty of tripoli states:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,…

    A pretty blunt declaration. If the founders objected then why was the treaty passed without a no vote. Not in any sense founded on the Christian religion is quite clear

    So try another myth your current lied don’t hunt no more.

  • larryclyons

    Where scott? all too often references are to providence (a more generic than fate), or the creator, which in terms of Deism (which many of founders were a part of), was a very detached distant force rather than a god.

    Try another lie, your fundie bs isn’t working.

  • TonyDiaz999

    What is this Judeo-Christian heritage as a nation?

    There is for the majority but far from most Americans have this heritage.

    The natives does not, neither do blacks and Asians. If they are Christians, it is less by heritage but by recent influence of the American majority under different social circumstances.

    Heritage is tradition not necessarily personal choice. There are some 15% nontheists in America.

  • Catken1

    Well, Scott, how are you so omnipotent that you can refuse to believe that Thor or Ganesh or Ishtar or a Giant Magic Pink Teapot that Controls Everything might exist? Anything’s POSSIBLE, after all. But believing in something just because it “might” be so puts you on about the same level as those who use astrology to run their lives, or believe firmly in the great UFO mothership that will come to take them back to the Great Alien Homeworld someday.

    It is those who make the claim that there is an invisible, all-powerful, magic superbeing out there who need to offer evidence, not those who refuse to believe that there is such a being until such time as they are shown compelling evidence of his or her or their existence.

  • Catken1

    So anyone who wants any deity that exists to bless the WHOLE world, not just our little section of it, hates the USA?

    That’s like saying that if I want other people’s families to prosper and be happy, I must hate my own.

    The world is not a zero-sum game. It is possible to love other people, in other nations, to wish them well and blessed, even *gasp* to think that maybe we’re not perfect and that other nations might sometimes have something to teach us, without hating our own country.

  • Catken1

    “Societies, particularly free societies, rely on sufficient numbers of people putting their own lascivious desires under the best interests of the nation”

    Actually, it’s generally their own economic desires- as when Mitt Romney claims a tax “loss” for care of his pet dressage horse which is now in the Olympics, meaning that we all help fund his hobby when he can afford it far better than we can.
    But you fundamentalists always have to make it about “lasciviousness” and “sex” – makes it far easier to control those “others” who don’t agree with your petty religious rules about who can have sex and when and for what purpose.

    Name me one civilization that ever fell due to sexual behavior. One. I’m waiting…

  • Catken1

    “If the word “God” were not a generic term for a supreme deity, then you might have a valid point.”

    It’s not generic. It is both monotheistic and male.

    And no child should be taught any religious assertion in school.

    “You might be one of the shrill few who find the concept of God offensive; but it remains the most logical conclusion, given the evidence we now have concerning the cosmos.”

    How so? Please, find me one shred of real, testable evidence for the existence of a big magic “higher power”?

    No, not “it’s too complicated for me to understand, and I don’t care to do the work to understand it, therefore God,” or “I really FEEL God’s presence, therefore God,” or “you can’t disprove it, therefore God” – that last also leads to “you can’t disprove it, therefore fairies,” and “you can’t disprove it, therefore Flying Spaghetti Monster,” and “you can’t disprove it, therefore cats secretly run everything with their telepathic control units.”

    “And, yes, the rejection of God is indeed unAmerican”

    No. Atheism is not un-American. America was founded on RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, not “the freedom to believe in what ScottinVA tells you to believe, or else be deemed un-American.” The Founders gave us the freedom to believe whatever we saw fit to believe, including the idea that there is no god – some of the Founders personally found such an idea disturbing, but they did not translate this personal belief into any citizenship requirement whatsoever for any religious belief at all, indeed making sure that NO religious belief could be required for American citizenship or public office.

  • Catken1

    What is un-American is having government officials dictate to Americans, particularly a captive audience of American children required to attend school, what they must and should believe. What is un-American is telling someone else that their religious beliefs are incompatible with America, because that violates one of the founding principles this country was built upon.

  • Sadetec

    @ScottinVA “Here is an omnipotent poster. He obviously has all knowledge of all things in the universe and beyond, because he states unequivocally that there are no gods.”

    I think when he said “there are no gods” it can be assumed he meant it in the same way as “Santa isn’t real” or “the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist”.

    The problem with taking the position you have, that things exist until they are proven not to, is one ends up having to say yes to a host of outrageous propositions. The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Darth Vader, Spider-Man, elves at the bottom of your garden — the non-existence of these and an infinite universe of other potentially existing things has never been proven. Are we to assume they exist, therefore?

    There is a reason why all respected legal systems use innocent until proven guilty (aka, the accusation is by default assumed to be false until reasonably proven true), and that’s because the “true unless it can be disproven” strategy mostly leads to error.

  • Secular1

    SinVA, as usual your response is full of invective and ad hominem. And it does not address any points I made in my post. But then, SinVA never does that. He did not even touch the issue of pledge, that all these xenophobes are so fond of.

  • Joel Hardman

    ScottinVA,

    What could be more unAmerican than telling someone to leave the country because they believe differently than you do?

  • Joel Hardman

    Of course principals should decide whether a song is appropriate for the children at their school to sing. The framing of this issue as a principal forbidding patriotism is dishonest. The principal chose a different patriotic song to substitute for one she found inappropriate. This article acts as if banning any song with patriotic themes is wrong. What about the theme from Team America (America, *!@% Yeah)? Would the principal be wrong in preventing kids from singing that?

    The real issue here is whether a school should be compelling kids to invoke god’s blessings on the USA. No way. It’s not a school’s place to have children chanting or singing religious (even vaguely religious) platitudes.

    The quote from Mr. Greenwood is quite revealing. He’s offended as a Christian, not as an American. He also buys into the idea that all of the founding fathers believed in his Christian god.

  • HiAll

    I’m in favor of singing “God bless America.”

    Our national motto is “In God We Trust.” Why wouldn’t we ask for His blessing? Better blessed than cursed.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Better intelligent than religious. Keep it out of schools.

  • haveaheart

    “How far has our politically correct society gone? How could being “proud to be an American” be offensive or inappropriate for children?”

    Give it a break, Jordie.

    Millions of non-Christian, non-Jewish, non-religion-supporting Americans are “proud to be an American.” You don’t have to be religious to be a patriot. You don’t even have to believe in the Judeo-Christian god.

    If you don’t get why “America the Beautiful” is a patriotic song that all Americans can rally around — and that embraces all Americans — while “God Bless America” is a patriotic song that excludes millions of Americans, then you’re even more ignorant than I thought.

  • haveaheart

    “The natives do not, neither do blacks and Asians.”

    And what did American Christians do to them? Killed them off and stole their land; enslaved them; and interned them.

    Yes, we set such a shining example for the rest of the world.

  • Joel Hardman

    HiAll,

    You make an excellent argument for removing In God We Trust from US money. People see it and think it’s OK to compel kids in public schools to ask for god’s blessings.

  • Catken1

    Well, why not have authority figures teach your kids, in public schools they must attend, to ask for Her blessing, or Theirs? Why not have your kids recite requests for Allah’s blessing, or Thor’s, or Ganesh’s?

    Why do you get to tell other people’s kids how to ask for blessings and from which deity/ies, when we don’t get to teach your kids to worship ours?

  • persiflage

    ‘Spoken like the traitor you are.
    There are plenty of countries that would embrace your hatred of the US; why don’t you apply for citizenship with one of them — Cuba comes to mind’

    Scottie, those are strong words based on another poster’s opinion.
    Do you suppose that could be considered some kind of ad hominem comment on your part?

  • persiflage

    ‘Societies, particularly free societies, rely on sufficient numbers of people putting their own lascivious desires under the best interests of the nation.’

    Lascivious desires? I had one of those awhile back but it passed. Are ice cream and beer Ok??

  • GeniusPhx

    this is not about patriotism or the country, its about religious people not caring if they offend those who believe differently. Having a public school singing a god song is the same as a government sponsorship of religion. We have a constitutional right to believe as we wish, or not believe at all; and to not have others hoist their beliefs on us. Sing your god songs in church where they belong.

  • wt_rd

    “Patriotism as a feeling is bad and harmful, and as a doctrine is stupid. For it is clear that if each people and each State considers itself the best of peoples and States, they all live in a gross and harmful delusion.” Leo Tolstoy

  • dcrswm

    Why not just sign “Captain Chrunch bless America” it’s actually a little more relevant as Captain Chrunch is a real thing…a spooky sky wizard…..not so much.

  • dcrswm

    Does Sodom count? They had devious (or fun, whatever floats your boat) sexual behaviors and all mighty Athismo smote them…if you believe that junk.

  • DRJJJ

    The government does sponsor a religion-the macro evolution faith movement taught to our kids as gospel! The missing links are still missing FYI-I’d call that a religion! Secularization of church and state sure isn’t working-turn on the news! In God we should trust, all others are flawed !Loving God and loving others (essential Christian doctrine) -what a horrible world view huh? I know we’re all hypocrites right-there’s room for one more!

  • DRJJJ

    Time Magazine intervie with Einstein in his 50s:
    To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
    Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life!”
    See wiki Einstein quotes if ya doubt! Give Christianity a test drive!

  • DRJJJ

    Wiki: However, their latter life together has been described by A. N. Wilson as one of the unhappiest in literary history. Tolstoy’s relationship with his wife deteriorated as his beliefs became increasingly radical. This saw him seeking to reject his inherited and earned wealth, including the renunciation of the copyrights on his earlier works.

  • DRJJJ

    Let’s just call evil good and good evil in the interest of fairness and equality? Moral relativity leads to ugly anarchy! Got to believe somethng or you’ll believe anything!

  • DRJJJ

    Most of them in fact did-it’s crystal clear! They warned us of a future state religion-evolution!

  • DRJJJ

    So is teaching a false religion (macro evolution)! Moral relativity is not progressive, it’s destructive-see all of history!

  • DRJJJ

    Yes, Christians are dysfunctional and hypocritical-there’s room for one more!

  • DRJJJ

    It’s called rebellion and it’s as old as history( see garden of eden events)!

  • DRJJJ

    Only kids worship cereal brands! Grown ups are seeking truth!

    Check out: “Why I believe” by Chip Ingram out of Atlanta (living on the edge) This 1999 piece is usually free to downloand! It’s about 4 hours of intellectually honest evidence for Christianity! Best I’ve heard in a lifetime of search for hard, compelling evidence/reason!

  • DRJJJ

    No one forces you to embrace Christianity here in the US and you’re not hated if you don’t! It’s just the vast majority of us consider ourselves Christians (+/-70% of USA in the latest poll)There’s room for one more! Welcome!

  • DRJJJ

    The Soviet Union was a few weeks away from Nazis taking over when the Christian US/ Europe sent in help FYI! Regarding documents we signed in Algeria-America in the 40s was as Christian as it gets in history by ANY account-no brainer! In God we trust, not in Gov-they make mistakes! Note: Hitler was a BIG fan of evolution (survival of the fittest) FYI!

  • lynnlm

    “The question before the human race is, whether the God of Nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?” -John Adams

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” – James Madison

    “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”- Thomas Paine

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.