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Choir event causes controversy in Flathead

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Dec 05 2013 09:43:50 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 10:17:14 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

A holiday concert involving high school students has some people up in arms. Some say the religious undertone of the event violates their first amendment rights as students in the public schools system.

Flathead and Glacier High performed a holiday concert at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.

The holiday concert featuring the two Flathead schools has caused quite a stir among civil liberties groups, saying it violates their first amendment rights.

"We were concerned that public school students would be performing at a place of worship that's been advertised as having an expressed religious purpose,” said Public Policy Director of the Montana ACLU Niki Zupanic.

She says an instructor at one of the high schools tipped off the ACLU to the event and showed them a flyer which says "please join us in celebrating the birth of our lord Jesus Christ.”

"We sent letters to each of the three schools that are planning on participating in the event tonight and we asked them to rethink their decision," said Zupanic

But the schools didn't, as the show went on as scheduled. Kalispell Assistant Superintendent Dan Zorn tells us even after they received the letters, they didn't think twice about cancelling or pulling out of the performance.

"We've studied the case law pretty closely and, in this case, we felt like we're on real solid footing in terms of our kids performing in the venue that the ACLU is questioning right now," Zorn said.

Zorn says the school district believes they were not endorsing any religion with the event and if a student didn't want to attend the concert, they didn't have to.

"If there's something that our kids and our families might not feel comfortable with, they have the opportunity to opt out of that."

Zorn says the incident and the letters they received won't change any procedure for future concert planning.

ACLU officials tell NBC Montana they don't plan on filing any lawsuit toward either school regarding the Christmas concert.