I’d like to point out that according to the radio story I heard this morning (when I became aware of the story) this guy HOMESCHOOLS his kids. He wasn’t complaining that his children were being forced to play this music. His kids don’t go to the school in question. He was just trying to stir up a little trouble. Guess he stirred up more than he expected.
From the Potomac News: The Original Letter
Letters to the Editor
Sunday, October 2, 2005
The devil's OK
I recently attended a local high school football game, and during halftime, the high schools marching band played the Charlie Daniels Band song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The song is about the devil challenging a Georgian fiddle player, with the devil having high hopes to be a better fiddle player and win the poor Georgian's soul.
As the marching was playing it occurred to me that the song makes reference to a spiritual character: the devil. I looked around at the other fan's and no one else seemed to get the irony: A high school band director would be fired for playing "Amazing Grace" but no one bats an eye for the playing of a song about the devil. Let's say for a moment that the high school band did play "Amazing Grace" at half time, I bet that before the principal left the game 25 lawyers representing the ACLU and other atheists would be on her faster than the devil on a lost soul. But I am sure that when the principal returns to her office on Monday, no one will have noticed that the adversary of God (the devil) had been mentioned in a song during halftime.
I am not necessarily for organized prayer in schools (I think Virginia struck a good balance with a "moment of silence") but, how can one mention the devil, and not be able to mention a Christian God? People will moan about "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, while the adversary of God can be mentioned freely. I think children should be allowed to gather together voluntarily to pray in clubs and religious groups on school property. I do believe in a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. I believe in this country that we have gone too far, where the mention of God in a public government or school forum is a complete taboo.
Even though the devil is an evil spiritual being set upon the destruction of the entire human race, he is still a spiritual being, and some have even taken to worshiping him as a god. Does this mean that the only sanctioned religion to be mentioned in or public schools is satanism? Just a thought.
Robert McLean, Woodbridge
From the Washington Post: 'Devil' Cast Out of Pr. William
'Devil' Cast Out of Pr. William
Hylton High Band Pulls Song Over Resident's Letter
By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005; Page C01
After the devil went down to Georgia, it seems, he got censored in Prince William County.
In preparation for a guest appearance at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, the marching band at C.D. Hylton High School had a logical and seemingly innocuous idea: play a Georgia-themed song. They decided on "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," by the Charlie Daniels Band.
But early this month, a local newspaper, the Potomac News, published a letter by a Woodbridge resident who, after having seen the C.D. Hylton Bulldawg Marching Band perform the country-western hit at a football game, wondered how a song about the devil could be played at school events, because of the separation of church and state.
Fearing bad public reaction, Hylton's longtime band director, Dennis Brown, pulled the song from the playlist. "I was just being protective of my students. I didn't want any negative publicity for C.D. Hylton High School," he said.
But Brown's strategy backfired. The decision has created a furor, and even Charlie Daniels has weighed in.
"I am a Christian, and I don't write pro-devil songs. Most people seem to get it. It's a fun little song," Daniels said Friday in a telephone interview from Mokena, Ill., where he was scheduled to perform a concert. "I think it's a shame that the [marching band director] would yield to one piece of mail. If people find out that he can be manipulated that easily, he's going to have a hard way to go."
Christine Heeren, whose daughter Sandrine, 17, is the band's color guard captain, said many parents are frustrated that the song won't be performed but are unanimous in their respect for Brown as a thoughtful and popular band director.
"I am quite in a dilemma," she said. "The children were more disappointed because they spent a lot of hours in marching band camp. It takes a lot of patience and drilling."
Residents, alumni and parents have been fulminating in the Potomac News and on its Web site against censorship, the values of the media, the band director and, perhaps not surprisingly, the writer of the letter, Robert McLean. In the paper's online forum, people have written about a range of topics -- abortion, presidential politics, whether Daniels rocks or not-- that show how testy emotions have become.
To paraphrase from the song, fire has flown from their fingertips:
"God have mercy. How did we become a country full of weenies who give into the cranky nonsense of 1 voice?" one person tapped out on a computer. "I guess I need to go back to school. I thought the idea behind our country was that the majority ruled? You know, like the majority of people voted for the President's re-election and now the ruling party is knuckling under to every left wing nut out there? I give up!"
A person identified as Ticked Off Parent chimed in: "What's next? School Book Burnings because someone finds To Kill a Mockingbird offensive? Whoever started this should be banned from the school, NOT THE SONG!"
Another wrote in: "So what if the song does actually 'revolve' around Satan? Satan has its rightful place in history as does Women's suffrage, slavery, and every other subject bad or good!"
Daniels's song, which won a Grammy Award in 1979, is a tongue-in-cheek, tale about a devil heading down to Georgia and challenging a young man named Johnny to a fiddling duel. The stakes are high: If the devil plays a better tune, then he gets to keep Johnny's soul. But Johnny is too talented and beats the devil, winning a golden fiddle, and making Daniels's song a metaphor for the triumph of good over evil.
Brown said the Bulldawg Marching Band has been practicing "Devil" since early summer and one student even purchased an electric violin for the routine. The band played the song during the pregame show of the state football championship in 2003, he said, and no one complained.
As for that nettlesome letter writer, Robert McLean? The defense contractor, whose children are home-schooled, said he went to Hylton's football game just because he enjoys the sport. His letter, he said, was meant to start a philosophical debate, not to wreck any student's marching band experience. Besides, he said, he loves "Devil."
"It was one of the first 45s I had as a kid," he said.
From the Potomac News: Editorial - The Devil went down to Hylton
The Devil went down to Hylton
Friday, October 14, 2005
We can only put this one way.
IT'S ONLY MUSIC!
On a minor note, Charlie Daniels probably hasn't received this much publicity since 1980. That's the year, Daniels and his band played their hit song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" in the John Travolta film, "Urban Cowboy."
It's safe to say that Daniels is shaking his head over yesterday's Potomac News ... or some of the comments made in previous issues.
Whether it's sung, hummed, whistled or played by one of the area's better high school marching bands, it's only music. Don't look for any hidden messages or agendas.
That's why it was puzzling to see such a knee-jerk reaction over a single letter to the editor. Woodbridge resident Robert McLean observed that no one objected to the C.D. Hylton High School Band playing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," yet if a hymn such as "Amazing Grace" were performed, the ACLU would descend on the school "faster that the devil on a lost soul" (referring to the Daniels song).
The editorial staff reads every letter sent to this newspaper and it was agreed that Mr. McLean was only using the band's song selection to make a point about religious references in public schools. It was done, the staff believed, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Then the letters, e-mails and phone calls poured in. Some accused Mr. McLean of calling the Hylton band "satanists." Others with similar sentiments followed. No problem there. The "letters" section is the closest thing there is to the old-fashioned public square.
It wasn't until we heard (from Hylton parents working in the newsroom) that Hylton band director Dennis Brown pulled the tune from the band's halftime show.
Then it became clear. This was the rub. This decision is why so many people responded so passionately to a single letter.
Brown told reporter Amanda Stewart that the song was part of a Georgia tribute since the band was headed to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta later this year. "A lot of teachers have told me how much they like the song," Brown said. "And four years ago we played that same selection, and didn't hear anything like this."
McLean said: "I like the song. I thought their version was good."
Based on those opinions, can Brown and McLean both be right? Of course. But the devil is in the details.
Whether the band director felt pressured into pulling the song or he did it on his own, it is his action that deserves scrutiny. There was no outcry on these pages nor (as far as we can tell) from the community to remove the song. The decision to pull the song sort of proves the point Mr. McLean tried to make. We've somehow gone from the land of the free, to the land of the easily offended. No one in America feels this tension more than public school faculty and administrators.
The good thing about Devil-gate is that everyone will probably get a good laugh out of it this time next year. Call it a mountain out of a mole hill or the tempest in a tea pot.
And for God's sake, let the Hylton band play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" prior to the end of the football season. And, if the director can find the sheet music, play Van Halen's "Running with the Devil" and Elvis Presley's "Devil in Disguise" as an encore.
Maybe then, we can exorcise this demon of over-reaction and misunderstanding for good.