Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Music and Government and Religion - Shhhhh, Don't Tell the ACLU

Music has been used for a long, long time as part of religious worship. Even the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible is based on songs, although the melodies have long since been lost. So the following should be no surprise.

(The paragraph below is fictitious, but please imagine the events described):

The Salvation Army is well-known for its music programs. There are many excellent S.A. bands around the world. On November 8, 2009, the S.A. Band performed at an annual worship service to honor member of its service who have died in the last year. They perform some excellent and appropriate music, including Variations on an Advent Hymn, and Voluntary on "Old Hundredth." The event was open to the public at an enormous temple and national tourist attraction.

(Setting the record straight):

The paragraph above is only fiction because of the name of the group and venue, but it's not hard to imagine such a service. And the event seems like an appropriate recognition, doesn't it? But that event was actually a service in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Marine Corps Annual Worship Service. The group performing was The U.S. Marine Band ("The President's Own"). And the venue was Washington's National Cathedral.

The Marine Band is a tax-funded ensemble of the federal government. Yet those who tell us we must have strict separation of church and state (one directional only, of course) would say this can't happen. Yet the Marine Band has been involved in religious service since the earliest days of the USA (since around the time the Constitution was written). By using the Band the government is not creating a national religion, much less forcing others to follow it. They are simply recognizing a very large part of the U.S. population and their beliefs and needs. They are honoring the fallen comrades in a meaningful way.

(Hold on to your hats - the next two are real, too!):

Then in just a few days The United States Marine Band will participate in the annual Lighting of the National Christmas Tree - yes, a "Christmas tree," not a "holiday tree." The date is Dec. 3, and it takes place on the Ellipse, south of the White House. This is the 86th year of the lighting of our national Christmas tree. (The ceremony was formerly known as the Pageant of Peace.) President Obama will take part.

On Dec. 6 The Marine Band (The President's Own) will perform an annual sing-a-long at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia. Program will include traditional Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs.

Given the history of our country, these are appropriate events. Look back at posts on this blog about the traditions that started in the early days of the United States and you will see what I mean.

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