Choir leader: The Grotto ban 'shuts door' for kids

Portland Public Schools announced ban on performances at The Grotto

Cole Miller and KOIN 6 News Staff - PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --- For many, the decision to ban local choirs from singing at The Grotto in Northeast Portland struck the wrong chord.

Portland Public Schools announced the move to stop performances at the Catholic shrine following complaints from an out-of-state atheist group.

On Monday, a PPS board member said the district jumped the gun by making the decision without going through the proper steps. Now, he and others hope the decision will be reversed.

"One performance here isn't going to influence anyone's preconceived practices or notions about religion," PPS board member Michael Rosen said. "I'm just sort of astounded... we weren't even briefed on it."

A staff attorney at the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation recently told KOIN 6 News they received 5-10 complaints about choir performances at The Grotto.

The organization claims the setting, being a place of religion, violates the separation of church and state.

But Rosen, who says he was left in the dark about the issue, is now working to incite change.

"I think this is a really frivolous threat that we're reacting to," Rosen said.

He says the district should put up some kind of fight.

Grant High School choir director John Eisemann is also speaking out.

"Today, we need to provide students with every opportunity, every avenue that they have, whether it's singing in sacred places or non-sacred places," Eisemann said. "Why should we shut off doors for kids?"

Rosen says a board member could introduce a resolution to overturn the district's rushed decision.

"The district legal team has told us it's highly likely that we'll get sued by this group," Rosen said. "OK, we'll get sued. We have a large legal budget, we'll defend ourselves."

Rosen believes many would testify in favor of keeping performances at The Grotto.

"This is a decision that doesn't allow the freedom of expression in our youth," Eisemann said.

KOIN 6 News will continue to update this story as it develops.


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