A Utah woman has quit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in protest of the group’s scheduled performance at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.
“Looking from the outside in, it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and facism by singing for this man,” Jan Chamberlin wrote in a resignation letter she sent to choir members and posted on Facebook. “I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.”
The choir has been invited to perform at several previous inaugurations, including those of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and both Georges Bush. In a statement about the choir’s intended show at Trump’s inauguration, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said this kind of performance “is not an implied support of party affiliations or politics. It is a demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power.”
But Trump is not just any president-elect for Mormons, many of whom were turned off by his vulgarity, repressive immigration proposals, and calls for religious persecution. A reliably Republican demographic, Mormons rejected their traditional party’s candidate in greater numbers than ever—numbers that included Mitt Romney, the faith’s most prominent political figure. In advance of March’s Republican caucus in Utah, some conservatives launched a concerted effort to get Mormons to vote for Ted Cruz as a blow to Trump, in part by slut-shaming Melania Trump.
For Chamberlin, Trump represents an existential danger to the country and the world. “History is repeating itself; the same tactics are being used by Hitler (identify a problem, finding a scapegoat target to blame, and stirring up people with a combination of fanaticism, false promises, and fear, and gathering the funding),” she wrote in her resignation letter. “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.”
An LDS church spokesman told the Salt Lake Tribune that the inauguration performance is optional for choir members; there are 360 singers in the group, but the church estimates that just 215 will sing in D.C. that weekend, limited in part by restrictions set by the inaugural committee. Among singers, reaction to the gig “has been mixed, with people expressing both opposition and support,” the spokesman said.
One of the choir’s former members has been publicly expressing his disappointment in the organization’s decision to support Trump’s inauguration. “I expect the church to stand on their moral high ground,” John Bonner told Salt Lake City’s CBS affiliate. At the time of this writing on Friday afternoon, a petition created by a Mormon asking the church to cancel the choir’s performance at the inauguration has garnered nearly 25,000 signatures.
“The Church’s participation will harm this spectacularly talented and beloved choir’s image, misrepresent the diversity of Mormons worldwide, and sends the wrong message to LDS children,” the petition reads, “as they will perceive the Church’s participation as endorsement of a president whose words and actions do not align with our values.”