Portland Public Schools upholds decision to ban choirs from sing - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland Public Schools upholds decision to ban choirs from singing at The Grotto

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The Grotto is a Catholic sanctuary and botanical garden located in NE Portland (Photo: FOX 12 Oregon/KPTV) The Grotto is a Catholic sanctuary and botanical garden located in NE Portland (Photo: FOX 12 Oregon/KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Choir students in Portland Public Schools will not be allowed to sing at The Grotto for the Festival of Lights, the school board upheld Tuesday.

Board members voted 4-3 not to pass a resolution that would allow students to sing at the Catholic shrine in NE Portland once again.

It's an issue that became very public and very divisive about a month ago, when the district ordered choirs to stop performing at The Grotto, after the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint based on the separation of church and state.

Worried about possible legal action, the district decided to ban future choir performances at The Grotto - a place where students have been performing for some 20 years.

After that decision, more than 3,500 people signed an online petition hoping that the district would change its mind.

"It affects students from this year and those in future years," said Jennifer O'Leary, a Grant HS alum who started the petition.  "I have a 10-month-old and at some point she’ll be at a Portland Public school, and so I said tonight they’re setting a precedent and they really have, so it’s really disappointing.  Really disappointing.”

But other speakers at Tuesday's meeting - including representatives from the Oregon chapters of the FFRF and the ACLU encouraged the district follow the advice of its legal counsel and uphold the ban.

"Certainly some people who are not of the Christian faith would feel comfortable there and that’s their personal choice," said Cheryl Kolbe, the President of the Oregon chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  "But it’s not fair to ask somebody in a class to opt out of something that’s part of their class simply because they have different religious beliefs.”

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