December 18, 2013 | 05:04 PMThe removal of lyrics from a religious Christmas hymn to make it more appropriate for a public school concert in Kings Park has drawn the ire of two parents who say altering the song was offensive.
Kevin McDonald spoke at the Kings Park Board of Education meeting Tuesday, explaining that at the recent fifth-grade concert for RJO Intermediate School, the choir sang a version of "Silent Night" that was far from its original form. Any lyrics pertaining to a deity — holy infant, Christ the Savior, Jesus, Lord — "and all other references to theology were removed," he said.
In their place were secular words "cobbled together to create something resembling a song and something that would probably pass public scrutiny for separation of church and state," McDonald said.
He argued that the choir director and principal — who confirmed the director's selection — should have selected a more secular song "without torturing the integrity and the meaning of 'Silent Night.' "
"What was performed was inappropriate and disrespectful to the Christian faith," he said. "This is a simple, elegant hymn that at its core is about faith. It should have been off-limits for any sort of modification."
Board members who spoke agreed that another song should have been selected.
"Even if there's no disrespect intended, it can be very disrespectful," Trustee Charles Leo said.
Board President Marie Goldstein agreed: "The song should not have been sung the way it was."
Superintendent Susan Agruso explained that the director changed the lyrics to avoid offending people with its religious message.
"They were trying to do it properly," she said, adding that in the future people will be "more cognizant when they select a song."
Principal Rudy Massimo was at the meeting and said, "I apologize for the disrespect. Moving forward, we are going to be more cautious with the songs we choose."