When the letter of the law runs head-on into common sense, we’d hope that individuals of good will could reach a compromise, and not punish those caught in the crossfire.
During the time the Founding Fathers debated the merits of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we doubt if they would have considered the performance of a school choir at a church function a violation of the Establishment Clause.
But some narrow minds in the town of Groton, supported by some others of likewise limited vision, precisely pressed that narrow interpretation, and so have deprived the Groton-Dunstable Chamber Chorus the opportunity to raise their amazing voices at a world-renowned event.
Claiming the appearance of the school choir at an Easter performance at St. Anthony’s Basilica in Padua, Italy, constituted an endorsement of a particular religion, a former member of the district’s school board, in league with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed a formal complaint.
And rather than taking a stand and fighting for the students’ right of free speech, now departed Superintendent of Schools Kristan Rodriguez simply capitulated, and withdrew that venue from the choir’s schedule – without any input from those students and parents affected by the decision.
We find it difficult to believe that by any objective measure, how a public school’s extracurricular activity, supported by private funds, could be considered a “governmental action that communicates an endorsement of religion,” as the complainant’s letter states. And that’s what obviously frustrates parents and students, who no doubt would have articulated their opposition to this cynical move to deny these talented singers the reward they rightfully earned.
That’s what occurred previously, when the school administration decided initially not to allow the choir’s trip. Then parents and students met with the School Committee, made their case and prevailed in an open exchange of ideas.
Had they been given that opportunity this time, they likely would have argued that none of the students objected or felt pressured to perform at the cathedral’s Easter Mass, an honor they earned in competition with more than 800 choirs. And that the person who complained has no association with the choir or its planned trip.
We agree with Lisa McCarron, one those who protested this decision in a letter published in both The Sun and Nashoba Valley Voice, who stated she’s all for the separation of church and state, but also for the democratic principles on which this country stands.
So now these students will not only lose out on a chance to perform at this world-recognized event, they’ll also won’t be exposed to the valuable cultural experience the St. Anthony of Padua’s stop would have provided.
Religion of all types are the cultural backbone of Western Civilization, and their churches, temples and synagogues their outward symbols, as much as the Roman Forum or the Acropolis in Athens.
It’s a shame those intent on proving a shortsighted legal point didn’t appreciate the full extent of their action.