Parents at Stall Brook Elementary in suburban Massachusetts became upset after administrators planned to remove the word "God" from the Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the U.S.A.," which fourth-grade students were scheduled to sing at an assembly about U.S. state geography.
A local Fox News affiliate reported that the children were instructed to sing "We love the U.S.A." instead of "God bless the U.S.A."
Parental anger over the proposed changes first led the administration to drop songs from the program altogether, but an updated press release posted on the Bellingham, Mass., school's website on April 5 stated that two songs would, in fact, be sung by students at the April 12 assembly, a song about the 50 states and "God Bless the U.S.A."
The press release states that students would be free to sing or not sing the words "God bless the U.S.A.", and that the school had not intended to censor a patriotic song.
"We believe the use of the word God is acceptable in patriotic songs," the release states.
Fox News reported that an e-mail was circulated among parents announcing the proposed changes, though Fox was unclear as to whether it originated from the administration or from another source.
The Huffington Post contacted Bellingham Public Schools administration for comment, and were directed to the updated press release mentioned above. No one reached for comment had information on the origin of the e-mail.
Fox news reported that some parents responded to the e-mail thread claiming that changing the lyrics would violate their children's freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the freedom of speech. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; this is commonly seen as the basis of separation of church and state, and is the reason why prayer is considered unlawful in public schools, such as Stall Brook Elementary.
"God Bless the U.S.A." was originally released by Lee Greenwood in 1984, but the patriotic country song experienced a resurgence of popularity following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its lyrics emphasize the sacrifice of the "men who died" to preserve American freedom, but it is not a hymn.
Fox acquired a statement from Greenwood in which he expressed strong disapproval of the administration's proposed changes to his lyrics.
"The most important word in the whole piece of music is the word God," Greenwood wrote to Fox.