Parents upset with inclusion of two songs in Ida Redbird Elementary's winter concert program

Posted at 7:43 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 00:45:21-05

When it comes to holiday songs, many have been around for generations. 

“Silent Night” has origins dating back to the early 1800s. Fast forward 200 years, and it’s causing controversy at Ida Redbird Elementary in Mesa.

"It's just not the time, or the place,” said Joe Petersen, who is upset with school leaders.

Petersen says he just received the playlist for his 5-year-old son’s holiday concert.

The Christmas song “Silent Night” describes the virgin Mary giving birth to a Holy infant from the Christian story of Jesus' birth.

"This is a public school, our tax dollars pay for this, and they're kind of leading it towards one direction of thought,” said Petersen.

Another parent believes the kids have been practicing for a while, during school hours and in the classroom without her knowledge.

"The other songs are fine, I don't care. But the two songs that are on there that we asked them to take out, they refuse to take out,” said Jen Carnahan who is also upset with the school.

The other song Carnahan and others take issue with is “Little Drummer Boy.”

They say, however, this debate is not about religion.

"This is not some kind of crusade against religion, by any means, I actually have deep respect people who have religious believes that they are willing to follow, it's just not the time and a place,” explained Petersen.

The ACLU says the school is most likely within its rights to teach the song, as long as it is presented in a secular way.

Parents have been given the option to exclude their child from the holiday concert.

The Mesa Public School District tells ABC15 the children began learning the lyrics on Monday--the same day the lyrics were sent home to parents.

School district officials say the holiday program is inclusive of several winter religious holidays, including Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza.

The concert is set for Friday morning.