clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Separation of church and dance

MURRAY — Murray High School's homecoming dance was rescheduled due to conflicts with the semiannual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The change to hold the dance last week, even though the homecoming football game was Friday, was made to accommodate students, several of whom told student leaders that they would be unable to attend the dance if it took place today, Scott Bushnell, Murray principal, said.

"We try to be aware of the factors surrounding the community, and it just so happened that the week before was an open date," Bushnell said.

Conference's priesthood session, for males over age 12, is scheduled for tonight at 6. While the meeting is not required of the faithful, it is a father-son tradition for some families.

But not everyone at Murray High is a part of the predominant faith. And some parents take exception to the rescheduled dance.

"I'm livid about it," said Abby Smart, who has two children attending Murray High.

"What I'm mad about is they changed it for conference, and they didn't hide that fact at all," she said. "It made us feel like we didn't have a vote. If we had a big Catholic conference, would they change it? I don't think so. ... Separation of church and state — I don't think that was taken into consideration."

Student conflicts with Murray's homecoming surfaced when committees met to plan homecoming activities just after school started this fall, Bushnell said. The football game was set for Friday, with the dance to follow today. But students on the committees wondered aloud whether they or others could attend because of general conference. Student body officers brought the concerns to the administration and asked if they could consider changing the date.

"When kids put these on, there is some cost involved, and we wanted to make sure we covered our costs as well," Bushnell said. "It was a very well-attended dance ... one of our best," for homecoming, he said, estimating 400 to 500 attended.

While the game and dance have not always aligned, — this year, they were a week apart — Bushnell was not aware of another time a Murray dance has been moved due to conference conflicts.

The change, however, hung in the air far too long, leaving little time to make restaurant reservations and plan dates, Smart said. Neighboring Cottonwood High's homecoming was on the same day, potentially packing several high school haunts.

"I think it's unfair to students," she said.

This isn't the first time school scheduling has clashed, or intertwined, with religious events.

A Utah Valley Ministerial Association leader six years ago urged Utah County superintendents to heed religious holidays of faiths other than LDS when planning school activities. That was after several schools scheduled proms the days of Good Friday and Holy Saturday observances before Easter Sunday. School officials said they would be sensitive to that in the future.

About a year later, Provo School District banned Monday night events after LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley called for such action from public schools and other agencies. Monday night in the LDS faith is reserved for family home evening.

This past spring, the Kaysville Parks and Recreation Department discontinued Monday athletic practices last spring after several parents pulled their children from the city recreation league due to Monday practices.