Thursday, April 5, 2012

Copyright Violation Is OK if You Are Just Removing "God"

Most Americans know the song "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood. It was at the top of the charts for a long time, and is even used at official immigration naturalization ceremonies.

But it was deemed inappropriate at a Bellingham, MA elementary school. They wanted to use the song, but were afraid someone might be offended by the use of the word "God" in the title and lyrics. Note that there were no complaints about the song. School officials decided to change it to "We Love the USA" instead.

There are hundreds of posts on the blog you are now reading about the silliness of thinking that saying "God" in a public school is unconstitutional somehow. But apparently school officials were so afraid of possible suits by the ACLU or the Freedom from Religion Foundation that they did their own preemptive strike. And they were so worried that (apparently) they decided they could violate copyright law. Some aspects of copyright are confusing, but at the bottom of almost any published sheet music are words saying that no one can change or adapt the work without written permission of the publisher.

Composer Lee Greenwood said:
“Maybe the school should have asked the parents their thoughts before changing the lyrics to the song. They could have even asked the writer of the song, which I of course would have said you can’t change the lyrics at all or any part of the song. The most important word in the whole piece of music is the word God, which is also in the title God Bless The USA. We can’t take God out of the song, we can’t take God out of The Pledge of Allegiance, we can’t take God off of the American currency. Let us also remember, the phrase God Bless the USA has a very important meaning for those in the military and their families, as well as new citizens coming to our Country. The song is played at every naturalization ceremony behind The National Anthem. If the song is good enough to played and performed in its original setting under those circumstances, it surely should be good enough for our children.” (as found on FoxNews:

No court decision has said that you can't use the word "God" in a public school. And CERTAINLY the U.S. Constitution doesn't say that. Our Founders took no actions that would make one think such a thing. Please, people! Read the Constitution!

UPDATE (unconfirmed, but from a good source): The school has reversed itself and will use the song now. I did not hear if it will be the original version, with God, but I assume so.

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