The Supreme Court has refused to reconsider a Ninth Circuit decision agreeing that a school could forbid the school band from playing Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria”.
I don’t want to argue about the legal issues (you can read Justice Alito’s dissent here), although I suspect tha the law favors the school’s absurd conduct. But although self-righteous intolerance can effectively bully people and institutions in an atmosphere of school administration cowardice and timidity, it still is wrong, and we all suffer for it. Because one student objected last year to a musical piece at her graduation that mentioned God and angels, the pusillanimous administrators at the school decided to nix an orchestral rendition of “Ave Maria,” because the title might offend some other intolerant and insufferably self-centered child. Thus one of the world’s most beautiful musical compositions will be prevented from enlightening and charming students who may not have had an opportunity to experience it, because one student was “offended” that a mere mention of angels assaulted her tender ears. So because her parents, who must be a really fun couple, couldn’t bring themselves to tell their daughter, “Oh, deal with it! We put up with your music and vile videos! What’s the matter with you?” a large chunk of the world’s best-loved music is verboten.
So much for “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “The Messiah,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “My Boy Bill,” and “You Light Up My Life.” You can show “The Mummy” in school (yes, they do!) but not “Fantasia,” which ends with that insidious Schubert ditty.
The individuals who delight at bending others to their will in the name of “offense”and derive a thrill from shrinking our cultural options in their aggressive phobia of religion, hints of religion, whiffs of religion or anything that might be used for religious inspiration, need some lessons, not in religion—the Horror!— but in basic ethical values like consideration, tolerance, kindness, fairness, and respect for the feelings of others, not to mention proportion and common sense. And the school administrators who fold up like accordions at the thought of having to stand up for the principle of cultural diversity?
It’s unethical to accept a leadership position in the absence of a backbone.