For a couple of weeks now, there’s been a lot of chatter in Oregon because students in the Portland Public Schools will no longer perform at The Grotto during the Catholic shrine’s Festival of Lights this December. The longtime tradition is coming to an end after the Freedom From Religion Foundation pointed out that the Grotto is a religious venue.
A Change.org petition claims that FFRF overstepped its bounds here because the Grotto was “never a Catholic tradition, it wasn’t a religious tradition, it was a performance tradition.”
But there’s even more evidence now that the Grotto was clearly not a secular venue.
Apparently, when school choirs were invited to perform at the Grotto, they were explicitly told not to sing traditional holiday songs; rather, they were told to stick to songs about Jesus.
“That has been the policy for 28 years,” The Grotto’s Tom Fulmer told KOIN 6 News. “The choirs that come here are asked to sing music that represents the true meaning of Christmas.”
“The music that is ideally suited to be performed here at The Chapel of Mary during the Festival (of Lights) is seasonal and sacred. We prefer you omit popularized selections which do not reflect on the sacred nature of The Grotto, such as ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Here Comes Santa Claus.’”
So this wasn’t just a Catholic venue in name only. This was a performance honoring the Catholic God.
That’s why public schools shouldn’t be performing there. It doesn’t matter that it’s a tradition. Bad traditions need to stop. In a couple of years, students won’t even realize the difference.
Remember: no one’s asking students not to perform a holiday concert. All they need to do is find a different venue. It’s not that difficult to do, and it prevents the District from getting into any legal trouble.
Not that school board member Michael Rosen cares. He’s willing to lose money in a legal battle just to prove himself a Christian martyr:
“The district legal team has told us it’s highly likely that we’ll get sued by this group,” Rosen told KOIN 6 News on October 12. “OK, we’ll get sued. We have a large legal budget, we’ll defend ourselves.”
That’s how you know the board doesn’t give a shit about the students. This is a religious war for them and the students are collateral damage. It’s not like they need money for their education.
The board will be meeting tonight to discuss whether to overturn the staff’s decision to cancel the concert. They’d be foolish to do it… so don’t put it past them.
(Image via The Grotto. Thanks to Brian for the link)