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Ava Maria Banned?
Words weren't used, so is it the music they object to?
by Joni Douglas
Recently, the Supreme Court denied the case of a Washington state student who was suing over the right to play an instrumental version of Ava Maria at her graduation. Now on the surface, you may think that this isn’t a big deal and that it probably doesn’t concern you, but you may be surprised. As the story goes, Kathryn Nurre, a former student at Henry M. Jackson High School was informed by school officials that her instrumental ensemble could not play this particular music at their graduation service. Apparently, the year before a choir group sang a song that had the word God in the lyrics and a few people complained. So to ward off any criticism or action from folks who would oppose this music, they denied the ensemble from performing this beautiful piece of music.
They have the right to do so, according to the courts. The story here is so much bigger than a court issue or even the school issue. Supporters are citing the First Amendment right saying this denial limits the student’s Freedom of Speech. The court came back stating the school has the right to ban controversial student expression. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said he would have heard her case, stating, “A reasonable reading of the Ninth Circuit’s decision is that it authorizes school administrators to ban any controversial student expression at any school event attended by parents because of the importance of the event for the participating students. A decision with such potentially broad and troubling implications merits our review.”
Keep in mind, no words were being sung. An instrumental version of Ava Maria is controversial? Excuse me? Maybe if the words were actually being sung, I could understand that notion a little better. But an instrumental version? The title is Ava Maria, which in Latin mean Hail Mary. Seriously? Do they object to this because Mary’s name is in the title? Perhaps because a person of faith wrote it? Or is this ban because the music insinuates a religious theme? They call this a religious song. When sung, it is in Latin; most people don’t know Latin. Notes aren’t religious. Words may be, but no words were being used. So are they now banning anything that may allow you think about God while at a public school event? If the music is really the issue, this is very troubling indeed.
Since when is such a beloved, world renowned piece of music unfit for a public school events? Whether you believe in God or not, this piece of music has entered the lofty realms of the worlds truly great musical treasures.
Below is an instrumental version of the song Ava Maria. It is a preview version not intended for recording.
The case is Nurre v. Whitehead, 09-671.