School district officials in a small-town, southern Utah county have canceled a plan to send a fifth-grade choir to sing patriotic songs at a local festival because some local parents oppose the politics of the event and of its organizers.
The one-day gathering now bereft of a fifth-grade choir is the Western Freedom Festival in Cedar City (pop: 28,857), reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
On Friday, school district officials and festival coordinators announced that fifth graders from surrounding Iron County will not croon a scheduled set of patriotic songs collectively called Hope for America. It was a mutual decision.
“We’ve stepped out of our participation,” Iron County school district spokesman Steve Burton told the Tribune. “It’s our policy not to be involved in events that have a political agenda.”
Iron County commissioner David Miller, one of the organizers of the festival, suggested that the school district wants to remain steadfastly apolitical.
“We don’t want to put our school districts or any of our community in a place where they’re uncomfortable with what we’re doing,” Miller told the Salt Lake City newspaper.
At the same time, Miller blamed a “micro-small group” of local parents for the Hope for America program cancellation. They deceptively misrepresented the program, he charged.
“They’re making such a big stink it’s not worth it,” Miller told the Trib. “They can have their way.”
The “disinformation” is “very deflating,” he added.
In the comment section below the Tribune story, a few commenters defend the now-successful bid to cancel the choir performance.
One commenter represents himself as one of the complaining parents.
“As it stands, your piece gives Commissioner Miller and organizers air time to describe many parents as though we are small in number and fringe — we are not,” the commenter, Zinwhit, asserts.
“As one of the parents who brought this to the attention of both the school board and the Trib, contacting a parent for comment to include in this article would have been nice,” Zinwhit also says.
The Western Freedom Festival is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23 on the campus on Southern Utah University. It will feature a conference with several speakers and a performance by Darryl Worley, a country music singer.
Topics to be discussed at the conference will be federalism and attempts to transfer ownership of public lands from the federal government to the Utah state government — a huge local issue.
“The western freedom festival is intended to celebrate our heritage and culture and bring awareness to the efforts that are negatively impacting those cultures, traditions, and lifestyles,” organizers explain on the festival website. “Event organizers believe western culture and tradition is under assault and that conservative family values, faith, hard work and entrepreneur-ism is being displaced by negativity toward these values.”
Leland Pollock, a county commissioner in adjacent Garfield County, stressed religion in a statement about the conference.
“We are surrounded by an ocean of public land, yet the freedom to use that land is vanishing,” Pollock said, according to the Tribune. “One would never think our religious freedoms would be under attack, yet we all know what has happened regarding Christian values.”
The Facebook page for the Western Freedom Festival warns against anyone criticizing the event on the Facebook page.
“Just an FYI, any attempt to hijack our page, posts, etc. for liberal progressive trolling will result in your immediate and permanent ban from our page,” a page update advises. “While we respect your right to your opinion and that of free speech, exercise your first amendment on your own soapbox not ours.”