Marion Graduation Song Bites the Dust

MARION — Marion High School Principal Greg Thomas pulled Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the May 31 commencement exercises after receiving complaints from the public.

Thomas said he received “several” calls last week from people in the community to objected to the song.

“The song references suicide, murder and thing such as that,” Thomas said.
The callers didn’t think it was an appropriate choice for a graduation ceremony.

Marion seniors nominated several songs for commencement exercises, with students voting for their favorites. The high school choir director, Sarah Cosgrove, has the final say.

Thomas said he didn’t learn of the Class of 2009’s selection until the first phone call. He made the decision to pull the song Friday. Cosgrove was informed Monday.

Several students attended Monday night’s school board meeting to address the issue. Board members did not take action.

Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, said it isn’t unusual for schools to limit student selections.

“Sometimes it’s about a play being presented or a song in a talent show,” Haynes said.

If the issue is pursued legally, courts traditionally defer to school leaders’ judgment.

“When it’s the curriculum, when it’s a school-sponsored event, it’s much more difficult (for students to challenge the decision),” Haynes said.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was written by Freddie Mercury for Queen’s 1975 album “A Night at the Opera.” The song includes three references to Bismillah, “In the name of Allah.”

“I did not make a decision based on religion,” Thomas said. “The decision was based on the song’s references to murder and suicide.”

Students will sing songs they have performed earlier this year to replace “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The students’ other song choice, “Imagine” by John Lennon, will still be part of the graduation ceremony.

“There are some people not happy with ‘Imagine,’” Thomas said.

Marion’s senior class has about 175 students. Thomas said his goal is to make graduation a positive and memorable experience for each student.

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