March 2017 Church & State - March 2017

AU Complaint Results In Mass. Choir Altering Easter Concert Plans In Italy

  AU admin

In response to a complaint filed by Americans United, a Massachu­setts high school choir altered its plans to perform during an Easter religious service at a church in Italy.

The Groton-Dunstable Regional High School’s Chamber Choir was set to perform during Easter services at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua as a part of a weeklong trip to Italy and Croatia.

AU contacted the district in Nov­ember after a former school committee member alerted the group to the church-state violation of public school students participating in a religious ceremony as part of a school-sanctioned trip.

In a letter to the school district, AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee and Staff Attorney Ian Smith noted that “Taking students to a worship service, much less participating in that service as part of a school-sponsored event, is a flagrant violation” of the separation of church and state.

“Please put a stop to it,” they wrote.

The school district initially announced in January it had canceled the church performance based on legal advice, according to the Lowell Sun.

Some people in the community didn’t react well to this, and the former school committee member who raised the issue reported receiving threatening messages.

In the face of ongoing complaints, the school district worked with the basilica to have the choir perform between Easter services, rather than as part of the Catholic service itself.

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