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YPA Board to meet Saturday to consider religious music in school programs

York Preparatory Academy’s Board of Directors is set to hold a special session Saturday morning to discuss permitting religious music in a series of upcoming school band performances between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This week, FOX News Radio commentator Todd Starnes penned an online column, challenging the school had banned the performance of “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Starnes sourced the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm that specializes religious liberty cases. “York Preparatory Academy has a policy banning religious music at holiday performance — even if the music his instrumental,” Starnes wrote.

That’s not true, said Managing Director Clay Eaton, who joined the Rock Hill Charter School’s staff back in July.

“We do currently have some religious music on the docket to be performed,” Eaton said. “The question that I have is where do we feel most comfortable about the nature and type of religious music?”

Eaton said the school’s board will meet November 23 to formally define the term “religious music,” questioning if there is indeed a difference between religious music that might air on a radio station or a movie and religious music that would be played in a church.

“We don’t have a policy” on that subject, Eaton said.

Eaton said the board’s wishes will direct school policy.

“I’ll take their direction… and we’ll go from there,” he said.

This is the first time such a policy has come at Eaton’s school, but he admits it’s not the first time the discussion of schools performing religious music has ever come forward.

York Preparatory Academy opened its doors in 2010 and is on of 56 public charter schools in South Carolina. According to the latest figures from the S.C. Department of Education, the school has 656 students enrolled in grades Kindergarten through 11. The school will expand to grades K-12 in the 2014-2015 school year.

“There are hundred of public schools in South Carolina that have this question every year…we just want to make sure that the program that we’re putting on at Christmas is consistent with the will of our parents and the will of our board.”

Eaton said the board was scheduled to meet and discuss the measure November 19, but due to a lack of a quorum, the meeting was postponed to November 23 at 8 a.m. in the school’s Media Center.

“I’m a firm believer in exercising the freedom of religion in America,” Eaton said. “I’m a firm believer in making sure that YPA is an instrument of the will of the parents, and the board as the representation of those parents gives me direction.”

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