Popular country singer Lee Greenwood has said that he found it offensive as a Christian that a New York City elementary school principal decided to pull his song, "God Bless the USA," from her students' graduation ceremony.
"I wrote 'God Bless the USA' about the love I have for this country and the struggle we have gone through to remain free," Greenwood said through a spokeswoman, the LA Times reported. "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?"
The PS90 principal, Greta Hawkins, who is a Jehovah's Witness, said the patriotic lyrics to the song were "inappropriate for 5-year-olds" and that it might offend those of other cultures. The June 20 graduation is for PS90's kindergarten students.
"God Bless the USA" was written in 1984 but was widely used in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. Hawkins, whose school is located in the borough of Brooklyn, tried to substitute the song with the Justin Bieber hit "Baby." Those plans were reportedly scrapped as well.
Previously, Principal Hawkins has also tried to end the tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "America the Beautiful" each morning, but her attempts were protested by the school's teachers.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has backed Hawkins' decision, saying, "I have to rely on the principal's judgment. It's her judgment to make that decision."
The country singer, however, has been vocal about the school's decision, and on Monday's Fox 5 "Good Day New York" program, Greenwood said the principal is "confusing allegiance to worship." He expressed however, that he would let the issue settle and won't try to speak to Hawkins directly about it.
"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."
Parents of PS90 school children who shared their views with the media have also questioned why the song wasn't allowed.
"A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride," said parent Luz Lozada.