By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Country singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood says a New York elementary school principal’s decision to pull his song “God Bless the USA” from a year-end kindergarten promotion ceremony “offends me as a Christian.”
PS 90 principal Greta Hawkins said she decided to eliminate the song from the event because she felt that some of the lyrics were “inappropriate for 5-year-olds,” citing a line in the 1984 country hit, which took on new life after Sept. 11, that says, “If tomorrow all the things were gone/ I’d worked for all my life/ And I had to start again/ with just my children and my wife.” She’s also been quoted as saying that she felt the song might offend people of other cultures.
Through a spokeswoman, Greenwood said, “I wrote ‘God Bless the USA’ about the love I have for this country and the struggle we have gone through to remain free. Our country was founded on the principle that it welcomes people of all cultures and gives them the same rights we have as citizens. However, I feel compelled to echo the faith of our forefathers, who all believed in God and a respect of a higher authority. Personally, denying the children of PS 90 to sing ‘God Bless the USA’ offends me as a Christian. My song is about hope, faith, spirit and pride. How could that be wrong on any level?”
Hawkins’ superior, City Schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, supported Hawkins’ decision. “I have to rely on the principal’s judgment,” he told the New York Post. “It’s her judgment to make that decision.”
Greenwood also spoke to the Fox 5 “Good Day New York” program Monday and said, “She’s confusing allegiance to worship and, you know, I have a great respect for anybody who wants to worship their god or in the way that they worship, but maybe she should talk to my pastor here at the First Baptist Church in Brentwood and Franklin (Tenn.), who basically could explain the difference between you have allegiance to a country but you worship a god.” But he also said he had no plans to contact the principal to discuss the issue.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to do that,” he said. “I’m sorry for the way she feels and … I think there’s some issues there that is beyond what we’re talking about.”