BETHEL, Wash. – A music teacher's decision to replace "Christmas" with "winter" in a recent concert carol has many residents up in arms.
Music teacher Mark Denison of Clover Creek Elementary School (search) in Bethel, Wash., changed the lyrics in Dale Wood's "Carol from an Irish Cabin" (search) to read: "The harsh wind blows down from the mountains and blows a white winter to me," reported the News Tribune.
Parent Darla Dowell, whose 7-year-old daughter sang the song, told the Tribune the decision was "absurd."
"I think the most important thing that angers me is that they sent a message to my child that there's something wrong with Christmas and saying Christmas and celebrating it and performing it at her school with her peers," Dowell told Fox News.
She couldn't understand why it's okay to exclude Christmas when her daughter still sang Hanukkah tunes that included lyrics about the "mighty miracle" of Israel's ancient days. In that song, there were at least six mentions of the Jewish holiday.
School officials admitted Denison may have gone too far in trying not to offend some people but they still backed him up.
"The policy for our school district is to include both sacred and secular music," school district spokesman Mark Wenzel told Fox News. "We leave it to the individual music teacher to decide what music to choose. It's supposed to have some sort of learning value."
Most school districts in the region, including Bethel's, allow both religious and secular songs to be performed during the holidays. Students at other schools in the district are still singing both types of songs, Mike Sander, director of arts education, told the Tribune.
The policies of allowing both types of music comes from court rulings that say holiday traditions can be taught if the purpose is to provide secular instruction rather than promoting religion, the Tribune reported. No court has ever ruled that mention of the word "Christmas" in a public school violates the idea of separation of church and state.
Clover Creek officials said students could get confused if the lyrics are changed back to the original version after having practiced the new version for a month. When some second graders were asked whether they wanted to keep in the word "winter" or use "Christmas," a slim majority voted for "winter."
"They're making no attempt to fix the situation," Dowell told the Tribune.
But no such vote was taken on the Hanukkah song.
Dowell and a handful of other parents pulled their kids out of the performance.
"Crossing out the word Christmas is just kind of like spitting on God," student Sheyenne Dowell told Fox News.
But the word "Christmas" did get slipped into one song that was performed — in Benjamin Hanby's song, "Up on the Housetop." Dowell argued that school officials are contradicting themselves.
"I've never made a stink about anything in my life," she told the Tribune. "But I feel very strongly about this."
In the meantime, similar whitewash controversies are brewing around the country.
In New York City, there's a lawsuit challenging the district's policy of encouraging schools to display menorahs and the Islamic crescent and star, while prohibiting Nativity scenes.
In New Jersey, a school board eliminated all religious music from school programs.
And in Kansas, a school district buckled under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union and did away with its yearly visit from Santa. All this despite a Fox News poll recently released that showed 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, which could mean all Grinches, beware.
"Some of it is actually animated by a hostility to Christianity," said syndicated talk show host Dennis Prager. "There's no question about it. But let's be very clear — if this country drops its Christianity we are doomed. This is a Judeo-Christian values-based culture."
Fox News' Dan Springer contributed to this report.