The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by a High School student in Washington State against a local school board because it wouldn’t let her play Ave Maria at graduation.
The student claimed the decision violated her rights of free speech and expression. The school board justified the decision by saying that many people would see the music as being religious in nature.
Samuel Alito disagreed with the courts decision saying that the case raised broad issues of censorship at schools that should be reviewed by the court.
Now interestingly enough what most of us would recognize as Ave Maria is actually Schubert’s opus “Ellen’s Third Song” using words from Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake” in which Ellen is praying to the Virgin Mary.
Just like no one thinks of William Tell rather than the Lone Ranger when the “William Tell Overture” is played, only true classical music aficionados would think of Ellen from “The Lady of the Lake” rather than Mary, mother of Jesus, when Schubert’s tune is played. Schubert himself, when writing about it said "My new songs from Scott's Lady of the Lake especially had much success. They also wondered greatly at my piety, which I expressed in a hymn to the Holy Virgin and which, it appears, grips every soul and turns it to devotion."
In other words, it was always intended as a hymn to Mary. It just happens to be a hymn recited by a character in Scott’s poem. The board of education was right to prohibit its playing at a public school graduation and the court was right to deny hearing the case.