In a community where faith-based values are treasured, educators attempt to maintain a careful balance during a time of year traditionally set aside by Christians to honor the birth of Jesus.
When the student council of Shelbyville's Central High School set out to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by playing student-requested holiday songs in the cafeteria, they were reminded to keep the music strictly secular.
Bedford County administrators had been reminded during a regular principals' meeting of the balance which must be maintained, with previous religion-related lawsuits against area school systems in mind.
The refusal to play holiday standard "Silent Night" was reported by a Nashville TV station over the weekend, but school officials dismiss the notion of a "Christmas controversy."
"We think this issue will be resolved by letting everyone know that I have asked all principals to allow any religious music to be played when other secular holiday music is being requested," School Supt. Ray Butrum said Monday afternoon after a meeting with Luke Faulk, president of Central's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, who had notified the television station.
Attempts by the T-G to contact the Faulk family were unsuccessful before press time.
Faulk and his father, Jeff Faulk, talked with Butrum in what he termed "a very positive meeting."
Of the directive from school administrators which sparked the short-lived fuss, "I think we were just erring on the side of caution," said Butrum, "We made choices that would protect everyone."
In the last three years the American Civil Liberties Union has taken three middle Tennessee school districts to court. The Sumner County Board of Education settled a suit with the ACLU over teacher-endorsed prayer in Westmoreland earlier this month without admitting any wrongdoing.
In relation to a traditionally Christian holiday, Butrum says he understands the reasons behind Faulk's objection.
"I think it offends Christians who want to keep the religious Christian music [a part of] Christmas."
Bedford County schools were dismissed early today for winter break and will resume on Jan. 5.