FFRF has successfully harmonized an Illinois public high school chorus with the Constitution.
Earlier this year, FFRF was informed that a public school madrigal chorus at Lincoln-Way West High School in New Lenox, Ill., performed at a Catholic church in Manhattan in December. The concert was part of the church’s Sunday morning worship services. Additionally, the chorus performed at other churches in 2014 and 2015. Online videos of the 2014 presentation show that prominent religious iconography was clearly visible, including a massive Latin cross just behind the chorus. In 2015, the chorus performed as part of an event that a church described as “a service in song.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne sent a letter to Lincoln Way Community High School District 210 Superintendent R. Scott Tingley informing the district that the use of churches for public school programming is inappropriate and unconstitutional. Jayne pointed out that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which has jurisdiction over Illinois — struck down another school district’s use of a church for school functions.
Other federal courts around the country have also struck down similar practices.
On July 12, Tingley responded, writing to FFRF that “Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 madrigal groups will no longer perform at churches.”
FFRF is tipping its hat to the district for agreeing to stay within the bounds of our secular Constitution from now on.
“Religion is inherently divisive and the district made the right decision to end its church performances to become more inclusive of students of varying beliefs in its chorus program,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.