Worldly: Albemarle County teacher deletes “God” lyric from “We Are The World”

| April 18, 2012 | 38 Comments

Within weeks of a national scandal at Stall Brook Elementary School in Bellingham, Massachusetts—where an overzealous government school official removed “God” from Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”—a local teacher has performed her own secular exorcism on another popular song.

For an upcoming 4th and 5th grade performance at Albemarle County’s Broadus Wood Elementary School in central Virginia, music teacher, Jean Flaherty, has altered a key line from the 1985 Michael Jackson / Lionel Richie composition, “We Are The World.” In an effort to avoid offending non-believers, Flaherty overtly removed lyrical reference to “God.”

The second half of the first verse, as composed by Jackson and Richie, reads:

We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We are all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know,Love is all we need
[emphasis added]

Flaherty’s edited version changed the third line:

We are all a part of one great big family
[emphasis added]

Seeking to further shelter her students from Biblical assault, Flaherty made an additional exchange. In a semblant reference to Matthew 4:3, wherein the devil asks Jesus to prove his divinity by turning stone to bread (Jesus did not succumb), the original lyric for verse three, says:

Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
[emphasis added]

Unable or unwilling to subtly alter this (somewhat convoluted) Biblical reference, Ms. Flaherty substituted a god-less verse re-written for We Are The World 25 For Haiti:

Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
So their cries for help will not be in vain
We can’t let them suffer; no we cannot turn away
Right now, they need a helping hand
[emphasis added]

While instructor Flaherty reportedly has told concerned, inquiring parents that their kids are allowed to sing “God” in the modified verse if they so choose, the official lyric sheet does not reflect such an option. And, due to social/peer pressures extant in modern-day government schools, few children are likely to deviate from the rehearsed and distributed lyric in order to vocalize “God” over the suggested “one.”

Lost in the shuffle to shutter references to the Creator are the kids who actually believe that they are children of God, and for whom such blatant redaction, is itself, highly offensive.

There are many god-free alternatives that Ms. Flaherty could have chosen to emphasize the commonality of man, but in selecting a song that was too “offensive” to sing publicly without substantive modification, Flaherty has proven herself utterly tone-deaf to the sensibilities and presentiments of America’s vocal religious remnant.

Listen to We Are The World(ly), as envisioned by Jean Flaherty:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Full, revised lyrics as posted on Ms. Flaherty’s Music Class “homework” page:

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on
Pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of
one great big family
And the truth, you know love is all we need

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart
So they’ll know that someone cares
So their cries for help
Will not be in vain

We can’t let them suffer
No we cannot turn away
Right now, they need a helping hand

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

When you’re down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe
There’s no way we can fall
Well, let us realize
That a change can only come
When we, stand together as one

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

(repeat)

We all need somebody that we can lean on
When you wake up look around and see that your dreams gone
When the earth quakes we’ll help you make it through the storm
When the floor breaks a magic carpet to stand on
We are the World united by love so strong
When the radio isn’t on you can hear the songs
A guided light on the dark road you’re walking on
A sign post to find the dreams you thought was gone
Someone to help you move the obstacles you stumbled on
Someone to help you rebuild after the rubble’s gone
We are the World connected by a common bond
Love- the whole planet sing it along

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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38 Comments on "Worldly: Albemarle County teacher deletes “God” lyric from “We Are The World”"

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  1. Joel Willis says:

    Thank you Rob for your due diligence in this horrific area. Lord knows the liberal media that drives and controls this area would never air this story until it is in full circus mode. I admire your efforts greatly!

  2. slim says:

    This is the 2nd thing like this in less than two weeks.

    People need to face facts, we are in a war of morality vs. amorality. Secularists such as this teacher to Obummer need to get checked at every level of our society.

  3. Brian C Bost says:

    Note to all, THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE TODAY!!! Happy Holidays is NOT a worthy substitute for Merry Christmas either.

  4. Juan Figuroa says:

    Brian Bost: Happy holidays is a TERRIFIC substitute for Merry Christmas. Acknowledging that the days surrounding Christmas are holy (the root of the word hol(y)day) makes me smile every time I hear it.

  5. God says:

    I’m coming.

  6. a person says:

    I am actually a student of Mrs. Flaherty’s, and me and a couple of my friends went up to her, and asked why she changed it, and she said that if it was something like a hymn, then she would leave God in it. I am still singing it the right way no matter what she says.

  7. votes5200 says:

    Way to go a person, way to go.

  8. James Moore says:

    The constitution does not protect one FROM religion.

  9. Fellow Teacher says:

    Just a few things. First of all I know Ms. Flaherty and she is a sweet person, a wonderful educator and, not that it’s anyone’s business, a Christian. Also, the second lyric you say she changed was actually part of the arrangement being used, not a change she made. God was changed to one after several parents complained. I find it despicable that you would post this without contacting her or the school, and that you would post incorrect information painting this good, kind woman as hateful.

  10. Skipd says:

    Wonder what Michael Jackson would think of this and just what Lionel Richie and Quincey Jones might have to say…

  11. Brett says:

    A surprise? No! Disgusting? Yes! As Rob stated, there are so many songs she could choose from but then she couldn’t invoke her control and show how “neutral” she is.

    I tried to listen to the Worldly audio file but hearing Ms. Flaherty try to sing is more than I can take! Not at all flattering!

    We need more people like “a person”! Never give in!

  12. Who cares? says:

    Who cares if they sing the word God and who cares if they don’t sing the word God! I will never understand why some people have to constantly cause turmoil. Listen to these wonderful children perform. Go home, be thankful for this great school, its great teachers, the wonderful community in which we live and shut up for crying out loud!!!

  13. Steve Peters says:

    At issue is her actions while in the attempted performance of her duties, not whether she is a kind or mean teacher. Would it not have been far easier to tell the kids that they did not have to sing the word GOD, then to remove it(likely violating copyright laws) and then tell them they COULD sing a word that was no longer there? Circular 14 at the US Copyright Office says only the owner of the copyright may authorize derivatives of their work. So, not only did she likely violate Federal copyright law, but in her quest to be politically correct used a much more complicated “solution” then necessary to achieve HER stated goal.

  14. Jason Bird says:

    Rob, thanks for shining a light on this!

  15. Ken says:

    Slim, opposition to religion isn’t necessarily amoral. Many people who are outright atheists have high moral standards.

    Fellow Teacher, it’s good of you to stand up for Flaherty, but I hope you don’t teach reading comprehension, because Rob has hardly portrayed her as hateful. Nothing of the sort.

  16. Tom says:

    And the community hasn’t demanded a sever reprimand of this louse? There’s the problem…the community is asleep at the wheel that matters most…

  17. DJJD says:

    Ridiculousness abounds. Fortunately the song blows chunks to start with, so no real harm done, IMO.

  18. Rennyangel says:

    Are their copyright issues here? You do not just change lyrics and texts someone has legally composed and copywritten because of your anti-relegious ideology.

  19. David says:

    Why is now wrong to say God? God is the basis on which this country was founded. Freedom of religion. When someone sings God in a song its not about trying to make one religion but rather an expression of a belief. He should allow those that dont believe to no sing it but should not alter to pacify others. We are One Nation Under GOD!! Those that dont believe – fine, but dont ask me to try to change my beliefs for you.

  20. Harrison says:

    Ken, “opposition to religion isn’t necessarily amoral.”

    However, it IS amoral, if the net result blurs the connection to moral law in the minds of the children. Whether intended or not, this instance fits the bill. A few parents complained, so the message was watered down for them all.

    “Many people who are outright atheists have high moral standards.” What are their high moral standards based on Ken?

  21. John Gress says:

    So….where's the response from our churches' pastors, or even the parents of this schools children who attend one of the 100's of 'Christian' churches here? Crickets, only the sound of crickets and the wind in the tree's……

  22. A fellow radio DJ says:

    Listen Rob,
    I know it’s hard filling up all that time on air blustering about one thing or another, but this is an obvious move to kill for time. I suggest you switch your show to a jam-band related music show so you don’t have to do so much work spying on 5th graders to come up with something to talk about. Also, the grateful dead says God from time to time so you shouldn’t get too offended. Have a good day.

  23. Ken says:

    Harrison, you make a good point in general, but I don’t think this instance is an example. We Are the World was a noble effort, but as a piece of music it’s just a schlocky feel-good song about helping the needy. The two references to God in the many stanzas were hardly a focal point – it’s “we are the _world_,” not “we are God’s children but so are they” – and most of the kids probably didn’t even know the original so the change wouldn’t suggest anything to them.

    That brings up another point. I think it’s kinda pathetic that the teacher changed the lyrics, but I don’t think it’s “highly offensive,” like Rob does. If the religious right concentrated on loving sinners instead of going around in high dudgeon about other people’s sins and shortcomings all the time, it would have a witness to the gospel.

    “Many people who are outright atheists have high moral standards.” What are their high moral standards based on Ken?

    You’re confusing the standards with an adequate philosophical basis for them. Without God there is no such basis for moral law. But that doesn’t mean that individual atheists necessarily recognize this, or at least admit it to themselves. Many don’t, but do hold themselves to high moral standards.

  24. djht says:

    My my, so many “Christians” so quick to judge and condemn! I pray the Good Lord does not judge you all as harshly and with so few facts. Would that I were so perfect that I could know Ms. Flaherty’s heart and understand her intentions so well that I could judge her too.
    Myself, I read the bible , attend church and struggle my best to do what is right and just on a daily basis. Perhaps you all should try working on the virtue of humility. Try spending your time volunteering in the schools instead of ranting and spreading hatred.
    …just a thought! <3

  25. Proud BW Parent says:

    Listen, Rob and all your small-minded minions, I am a proud parent of a Broadus Wood student and your insistance of making an “issue” of this “non-issue” is pathetic! You don’t know anything about our school, our music teacher, or our community. Our children are excited and have worked hard preparing for this spring concert and how dare you try to cast a shadow on it because you’re digging for something to talk about. There are so many real issues going on in the world that need our attention. The teachers in our school are dedicated to providing the best education to our children. It disgusts me to read all these hate filled comments about our music teacher. You and your minions should be ashamed of yourselves for this “internet lynching” of a teacher.

  26. Another BW Parent says:

    Completely agree with both “Who Cares?” and “Proud BW Parent”. The teacher was most likely just trying to avoid this type of circus with her actions, but people’s jobs depend on raking muck, so rake we must! I fully support Ms. Flaherty and am thankful that she has been there for my child. I’m sad that my child has to be surrounded by this circus, but I guess it’s educational in developing understanding about our pathetic, reactionary society. How about looking around to see what good you can do in the world instead of looking for opportunities to be offended?

  27. Jack says:

    This is just another disgraceful liberal teacher trying to push their agenda. We are suppose to be diverse and open, instead we get pushed down our children’s throat how wrong it is to be Christian in our world. Great job Rob as always..

  28. Another Proud BW Parent says:

    If a few men didn’t stand up for what many may have seen as “non-issues”, this country would not exist as it does today – a nation free of tyranny and oppression.

    I too am a “proud BW parent” whom is neither small-minded nor anyone’s minion and I DO know plenty about our school, our teachers, and our community. Yes, all work hard and appear to be dedicated to their jobs (and most importantly, the kids), but you must admit, “Proud”, that this issue is symptomatic of what is going on not only in our increasingly secular area but a sign that the uber-liberal mindset of C’ville is oozing out into what has always been a nice, moderate (if not slightly conservative-leaning) county where most of us still feel a sense of pride in both our local and national heritage (which, as you surely know, is based upon Judeo-Christian principals).

    MANY of the kids in these classes attend local churches close-by with their friends, classmates, and families. Maybe the school administrators should get their cues from THESE places – not the overwhelmingly secular-minded school board – when deciding what best suits OUR community’s school. After all, shouldn’t each of our public schools reflect the respective communities in which they operate – and by which they also happen to be funded?

    Yes, it is sad to see battle lines drawn over an issue that, on its own, seems trivial, but at what point do WE, the majority of the community, finally have to stand up for the greater good and say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”? If we keep blowing off these little affronts to our cultural heritage as “non-issues”, we are essentially surrendering to the secularist agenda. If we do not speak out or stand up, we are then defeated.

    And don’t forget, the kids will go about their wonderful performance and all us parents will applaud both them and their director as enthusiastically as we always do.

    Peace be with you and yours, neighbor.

  29. Ken says:

    As much as I take issue with Rob’s tone here – the theatrical way he takes offense instead of just offering criticism, and his lip-smacking self-satisfaction at making this a “national” issue (for people who pay attention to the professionally outraged conservative media, that is), I’d like to challenge Proud BW Parent and Another BW Parent to respond to Another Proud BW Parent’s fine post at 2:37 pm.

    How about some tolerance and respect for conservatives, and sensitivity to their wishes and concerns once in a while? Not that I really expect a response, but if you do respond, please don’t try the separation-of-church-and-state line, because that’s historically ignorant and logically inconsistent.

  30. Another Proud BW Parent says:

    Thank you for the kind post, Ken.

    You know… I think we may be onto something here!

  31. Paul says:

    Being born a conservative is a hard road to travel in an increasing secular world, especially living in Charlottesville. God or no God in someone live is a personal issue. it is not my job in life to shove my faith down anyone throat. I do know we as falliable human being do have the ability to put our foot in our mouth (which I have done a many a day myself). What is real issue here. Does a teacher or anyone have the right to change a song to make it more pleasing to mass? There is no way I can agrue separation-of-church-and-state line.
    All I know is from reading over the yrs, God or faith had a big part in founding of this county and in allot of our lives. I go to church or read at home for me, to help me see clearly. I don’t go to find fuel to use again someone. Rob did what he is suppose to do. Each of us do what we are suppose to do on our choicen path. Before I retired I deal with human being if they didn’t get their way — would tell me to my face — “God is going to punish you.” The question is still did this teacher have the right to change the song? The question is did these indiividuals have the right to tell me this.
    Could the teacher found a different song to get her point across? In a world becoming more secular, what does a conservative do when face with all B.S. that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on. But end does it matter when something else comes up?
    Like the sign in yard that read — Worship your faith, not your politic……Do the right thing does seem good enough anymore, does it!!!!We have individuals preaching for more government intervention, we have individuals preaching class warfare, we have individuals who are just preaching because they can. As someone who once say in a class — THE WORLD HAVE BECOME TO NOISY— WE HAVE NO DOWN TIME.. That is one reason, I go to church, for the down time………….. May we all be well and get up in morning alive instead of having dirt in our faces.

  32. Ken says:

    Paul, class warfare is a myth conservative leaders tell you because it makes you all feel good to feel morally superior and because it relieves you of the obligation to take liberals seriously and respect them even though you disagree with them. You’re unwilling and unable to understand their thinking, so what you believe instead is all the worst things about them and all the best things about yourselves.

    Your motives are pure. You love the Constitution (how many of you ever read it or gave it a second thought before it became a conservative article of faith that liberals don’t adhere to it?). You’re patriots who love your country and liberals hate it. Liberals don’t care about the poor – liberal politicians just want to buy votes and increase their power, and liberal voters just want to be taken care of because they’re lazy and immature. The political world is a simple place where everything is black and white, and you’re the white pot calling the kettle black.

    First of all, these are sinful views for Christians to hold because we’re called to love our neighbors and to be humble before God, and that means being willing to see the good as well as the bad in our opponents, and not to judge them as bad people when we do see their sin, but be reminded of our own.

    Secondly, liberals know your views are bogus (or are gross and exaggerated generalizations when there is truth in them), and so they’re offended by them, and so just as you guys tune them out when they call you selfish bigots, they tune you out.

    And this is why I say that for all the sentiment you feel, and as much as I understand and respect and in some cases share conservative principles, you’re not morally serious when you bash liberals like that. You have a choice. Do you want to feel righteous (self-righteous) or do you want to change hearts and minds for the sake of the country you profess to love? We called to love our political neighbors as ourselves even as we fight their ideas. The alternative, which Rob illustrates five days a week, is to make war on them.

  33. Paul says:

    Ken:
    I am little confused on love our political neighbors. I couldn’t find that in Bible (unless I am using outdated one). So I am sentimental, my blueberry bushes could have told you that. But as my father taught me a very long time ago: There may be someday in your life where you need to give up your life for the other guy. Doesn’t matter who he is, you may have to. I guess since I believe this, and know it in my heart. Does it make me sentimental or self-righteous? My father also taught me that it is not government’s job to do everything, that is the reason we have churches and other organizations, not funded by government to do these things. Go check out http://www.persecution.com
    So I am sentimental, does that mean hell is going to freeze over and the James is going to dry up? NO!. In closing since we all have beaten this dead horse to death. Did the teacher in question have the right to change wording of the song? Did the teacher or school system have permission to change word in song? Or does it really matter?

  34. Ken says:

    Paul, “love your neighbor” applies to every sort of neighbor, doesn’t it? Why would it not. But I should have made clear that by “you” I was speaking of conservatives like Rob who fume about how “disgusting” liberals are, etc. If you don’t share that attitude, then my mistake, sorry.

    Enjoy those blueberries.

  35. A Member of that Big Family says:

    My views on the song and performance aside, I’m sure that God would not mind if we all put this behind us and instead allocate our time and energy to education issues that have a material effect on our children, such as creative approaches to funding schools, teacher and student assessment, and teacher professional development.

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