School choir cancels performance at gay event
March 30 2004 1:00 AM ET
An elementary school choir that emphasizes diversity dropped out of a service celebrating the gay community because too few parents gave permission for their children to participate. The H.W. Smith Elementary School's Rainbow Kids international chorus was to perform Sunday at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., during the annual "Equality Begins At Home" event, organized by local churches and gay and lesbian groups. The event celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in song and sacred text, said the Reverend Shawn Benedict, an event organizer and pastor of Ray of Hope Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Christian church founded to support gays and lesbians. "The understanding of this thing is exactly in the title of the event," Benedict said Monday. "The difficulty came at home. I'm not vilifying parents, but what I'm saying is this shows that our work isn't done as a society."
The choir is made up of more than 100 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade pupils. Chorus director Francine Berg said she expected 20 to 25 students to participate, but only a handful of students returned permission slips, so Berg canceled the group's performance. Berg said several students told her their parents did not approve of the event. Scheduling and transportation problems were also factors, she said. Pupils at H.W. Smith come from at least 40 countries and practice a variety of religious traditions, she said. The service included performances by Ithaca-based folk musician Jody Kessler; Bruce Coville, a children's author who lives in Syracuse; and Out Loud Chorus, a gay and lesbian choir from Ithaca. Neil Driscoll, city school district spokesman, said no calls were received from people complaining about the event.