In a complete about-face, the superintendent of an Alabama school district has changed his mind about banning the popular hymn "Amazing Grace" from a local high school marching band's halftime show.
According to local station WTVM, Elmore County School Superintendent Dr. Andre Harrison said he made the decision in consultation with an attorney after someone complained about the constitutionality of Holtville High School marching band playing a religious song.
"After word of my decision circulated, I heard from many concerned parents, and frankly I still had reservations about my initial decision. I asked counsel to do further research on this issue and present me with options that would keep the district in legal compliance, but permit performance of one of the most iconic songs in the history of our nation," Harrison said in a Facebook post.
According to Harrison, his office received the complaint and was then contacted twice by the same person about the constitutionality of the band playing the song, which was written in the 1700's by John Newton, a former slave trader.
In announcing his initial decision to prohibit the band from playing the hymn, the superintendent said, "I was reminded that, as a public school, we simply cannot endorse a religious message in our activities. I completely understand the frustration of some of our parents, but we have an obligation to follow the law, even when we don't want to."
"'Amazing Grace' is the message of hope, God's love and His mercy that people need today," he wrote. "The law and the Constitution don't require this school to pull the song...If we as Christians keep folding in these situations, there will be nothing left to defend. We can't just sit back and let our religious liberties slip through our fingers."
He later praised the school for reversing its decision and thanked the faith-based community for standing against religious hostility.
"Christians had remained silent, this change would most likely not have occurred," he wrote. "I applaud the parents and community members who let their voices be heard. People even came out and gathered in front of the high school to show their concern and support for the band. We all have to take a stand for our religious freedoms while we still can."