Brooklyn Benzel, 13, learned how to play popular Christmas Jingle “Joy to the World” as a piano assignment. However, after submitting a video of herself while playing the piece, a school specialist told her that the assignment “would not be acceptable” because it was too “religious.” This decision has now been reversed by the school after Brooklyn’s mother, Julianne Benzel, threatened legal action.
Julianne said that there should never have been a problem because it was a piano assignment and her daughter was not going to sing any of the words. Regardless of the lyrics, the assignment was supposed to be about the child’s prowess on the keys. To make matters worse, the school official who rejected the submission allegedly suggested that “Jingle Bells” is a more “cultural” choice that won’t be considered as “religious.”
Brooklyn’s mom said it was “alarming” how the school official took the time to research the lyrics and pick out words which can be perceived as religious. For the part of the unnamed school official, Julianne shared this statement:
“My guess (regarding justification) is that there are words in the lyrics that can be considered religious such as ‘savior,’ and ‘heaven.’ It is widely considered as a Christian hymn and is typically played/sung at Christmas time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Julianne said that her family’s Christian faith is constantly being attacked in the country. She threatened legal action against the school through the Pacific Justice Institute. The school is already facing similar charges of religious discrimination filed by a piano teacher.
The school administration, through Cynthia Rachel, director of communications and development for IEM Schools, has revealed that the decision has been reversed. Upon reviewing the video, school officials “determined it was an acceptable work sample.”
However, in a statement, Rachel maintains that “all public schools must be nonsectarian.”
Feature photo courtesy of Julianne Benzel.