Atheists Prevent a Religious Song at Graduation

In their farming community of Woodbine, Iowa, Christine Skarin and her twins struck a sour note with a lot of people.  To fight Woodbine High School’s traditional graduation song entitled, “The Lord’s Prayer,” the Skarins took to the courts on April 29, 2002.

In a predominantly Christian town, the Skarins are already different from the rest of the community.  Theyaare atheists.  The controversy began when Donovan and Ruby, Christine Skarin’s twins, were required to sing “The Lord’s Prayer” in the school choir at graduation. 

On April 29, 2002, the Skarins with the help of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union got a federal judge to issue a restraining order preventing the choir from even practicing the song until the case was settled because the Skarin’s felt they’re being forced to pray.

However, U.S. courts do allow religion in school classes when it involves culture according to school officials and Francis Manion from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who was not directly involved in the lawsuit.

Manion said, “The fact that it’s a piece of music makes a big difference.  Cultural things that are religious can be taught in schools as cultural things:  music, literature, art.”

Woodbine High School became the center of attention on May 19, 2002, concerning whether the song would be played at the graduation.  It was not in the ceremony in the end.

Following the lawsuit, school officials, graduates and the community abided by a federal judge’s decision to ban the song.

Seniors and participants were warned not to disrupt the ceremony by school officials.  A letter asking everyone to respect the decision of the federal court and refrain from speaking or singing, “The Lord’s Prayer” was also included in the program.

School officials deliberately erased parts of a tape in which the school board allegedly talked about Woodbine being a Christian community as a reason to sing the song said U.S. District Judge Charles Wolle in his ruling over “The Lord’s Prayer.”

However, the litigious tune the Skarins had struck isn’t a melody so much as a plain racket said Betty Bennett, a parent of a choir member, “It’s ticking a lot of people off frankly.”

(Chris Clayton, “Temptation overted:  no ‘Lord’s Prayer’ at Woodbine.”  Omaha World Herald, May 20, 2002; Steve Brown, “Parent Sues School over Graduation Tune,”, May 12, 2002.)



Back to Religious Liberty...An American Tradition

Back to American Voice Institute of Public Policy Home Page