A New Castle County high school changed its concert selections for 2011-2012 to bring them within constitutional requirements, after receiving correspondence from ACLU-DE and the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

The correspondence was sent on behalf of a high school music student who had been compelled to choose between singing a substantial amount of highly religious music as part of choral class during the 2010 school year or accepting an unpalatable alternative.

The First Amendment bars the government from promoting religion and from interfering with an individual’s free exercise of religion. In the matter where ACLU-DE’s assistance was requested, the high school was promoting religion by requiring students to sing a substantial amount of deeply Christian music at the 2010 winter concert.

After ACLU-DE sent a legal analysis to the school principal, she had it reviewed by the school district’s attorney, who confirmed the information ACLU-DE had provided. The principal then gave appropriate instructions to the music teacher about the criteria that had to be uses in selecting music for the 2011-2012 school year. She also permitted ACLU-DE to review and comment on this year’s selections before the music was purchased.

Thanks to the principal’s careful application of constitutional principles, with ACLU-DE’s input, this year’s choral students with have a musically sophisticated program that respects the First Amendment and American religious (and non-religious) diversity.