The Hawaii Department of Education canceled a beloved annual Christmas concert by the Moanalua High School orchestra only four days before the event, following legal complaints by a First Amendment advocacy organization.
Mitch Kahle, founder of the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, wrote a letter to the Department threatening a lawsuit because of New Hope Church’s involvement in the concert, according to Hawaii News Now.
New Hope Church manages ticket sales and sells tickets to the concert at its services, sending all proceeds to charitable causes. (RELATED: School removes ‘God’ reference in first-grader’s poem before she can read it at school assembly)
In recent years, the church has raised more than $200,000 through ticket sales for a charity that treats poor people in Africa.
Concert volunteer Chad Brownstein told Hawaii News Now that the church has already sold more than 600 tickets for the 2102 version of the event. Ticket sales would have raised about $30,000.
Concert organizers are trying to find a different location that is suitable. However, the chances are reportedly low that they can secure a new venue by Christmas.
“The issue here is an entanglement between a public school and a Christian church,” said Kahle, according to Hawaii News Now. “And one of the things about the Constitution is that it prohibits the involvement of public schools and churches.”
Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church bills itself as a “religion and government watchdog group founded in 1997 to oppose the Christian supremacy movement and defend the constitutional separation of state and church.”