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Petition urging Mormon Tabernacle Choir to snub Trump inaugural tops 15,000 signatures

Published January 1, 2017 9:59 am

15,000 signatures • Signers say the president-elect's views are incompatible with the LDS Church's values.
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An online petition objecting to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's plan to sing at the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump is drawing wide support from Latter-day Saints and others, topping 15,000 signatures Monday.

The petition asks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to decline an invitation for its world-famous choir to sing at the Jan. 20 swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., because doing so would "harm this spectacularly talented and beloved choir's image."

Trump "does not reflect the values of Mormonism" nor represent the diversity of the faith's 15.6 million members around the globe, the petition states. The choir's participation also would wrongly suggest that the Utah-based denomination and its members support the incoming president's "agenda, values and behaviors."



Another petition, also at change.org (https://www.change.org/p/support-mormon-tabernacle-choir-singing-at-inauguration-2017) was not faring as well: as of Tuesday, it had gathered just seven signatures.

LDS leaders announced last week that the choir would perform. Not all 360 singers will make the trip, but church officials have said about 215 are expected to volunteer.

The choir previously sang at swearing-in ceremonies for George H. W. Bush (1989), Richard Nixon (1969) and Lyndon Johnson (1965). It performed in inaugural parades for George W. Bush (2001), George H. W. Bush (1989) and Ronald Reagan (1981).

A lifetime Mormon, Randall Thacker launched the petition (http://bit.ly/2hlCY8p) within hours of the announcement.

"I've sensed a lot of grief around this issue, and I wanted to provide a place to express that," said Thacker, who splits his time between Utah and Washington, D.C., and is a past president of Affirmation, a support organization for gay Latter-day Saints."I'm happy to see my gut was right when it told me so many people felt the same way."

A majority of the petition's signers purportedly are Mormons from across the U.S. and around the world. Many express being "saddened and perplexed" by the decision to send the choir and urged church leaders to, "in the name of all that's holy," reconsider.

Belem Cartier, who was born and reared a Mormon in her home country of Mexico, said she was shocked that the choir would sing at Trump's Inauguration Day.

"It's not about politics, it's about principle," said Cartier, who now lives in North Salt Lake and is the mother of two young children. "He represents the bigotry and the racism that exist in America, and, as a church, we should be against that."

Cartier said she is troubled by the way the president-elect has spoken negatively about women, minorities and Mormons.

"I don't think he even knows anything about Mormons," she said. "I don't know why he would invite the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the first place."

Cartier signed the petition in hopes that church leaders will take note of the objections expressed by members and keep the choir at home.

"I understand why they would accept. [The choir] has done it before, and it's a way we serve the country," she said. "But, on the other hand, what does it say about us as Mormons in general to be associated with this president?"

Gina Colvin, an LDS scholar and Maori writer in New Zealand, worries about what the choir's appearance at Trump's inaugural says to "Mormons who are Mexican, Chinese or from Muslim countries, or to people of color, like me, who find his racial politics vile and reprehensible?"

"It seems that Donald Trump endorses a return to a white colonial Americentric patriarchy," she wrote in an email, "and that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would show up to support him with song speaks to me of how little moral care the church has for the international cultural and political diversity of our church."

Other petition signers are self-described friends of the faith, including a New York rabbi, who said he holds an affinity for Mormon values, including "honesty, truth and benevolence."

"Donald Trump continues to trample upon these values," the rabbi wrote. "For the majestic and glorious Mormon Tabernacle Choir to celebrate his inauguration, would be an endorsement of how he disregards the values that define Mormonism."

An LDS Church spokesman previously acknowledged some controversy over the choir's appearance at the inauguration.

"Response to the announcement has been mixed, with people expressing both opposition and support," Eric Hawkins said in a prepared statement. But he pointed to the choir's long tradition of singing for presidents of both parties, calling such performances a "demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power."

Still, Thacker argues, the furor raised by the Trump inaugural invitation should trigger a dialogue about the role of choir performances in future national events. The petition suggests that other nonpartisan events, such as July Fourth celebrations, would not be a concern.

Thacker and others plan to personally deliver the petition to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and LDS Church officials sometime this week, although no one expects the choir to bow out of its performance plans.

"I see a petition as an opportunity," Thacker said, "to allow people with a divergent, often minority viewpoint to express their feelings in a way that is heard and respected."

Although individual Mormons in Utah and nationwide are overwhelmingly Republican, the LDS Church itself maintains a neutral stance in partisan matters, saying it "does not endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms" and noting that Latter-day Saints "may have differences of opinion" in such cases.

The church did, however, issue a statement last year decrying Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. In addition, the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City newspaper owned by Utah's predominant religion, published a pre-election editorial encouraging the GOP presidential nominee to quit the race after a videotape captured Trump bragging about groping women.

After the Republican's upset victory, a News editorial complimented Trump on his win "against tough odds" while noting it "will never condone the behavior and comments we condemned."

Trump struggled to carry Utah, snagging 45.5 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton's 27.5 percent, while independent Mormon conservative Evan McMullin garnered 21.5 percent.

jdobner@sltrib.com

remims@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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