USA

Mormon Tabernacle Choir singer resigns over Trump inauguration

Jan Chamberlin says that the performance will make the choir appear to be 'endorsing tyranny and facism.'

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sings in the Conference Center at the morning session of the two-day Mormon church conference in Salt Lake City, Oct. 1, 2016. Choir member Jan Chamberlin posted a resignation letter that she says she sent to choir leaders on her Facebook page Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016.
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  • Staff
    Associated Press

A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir says she has resigned from the famed group over its decision to perform at next month's inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Jan Chamberlin posted her resignation letter to choir leaders on her Facebook page Thursday. In it, she writes that by performing at the Jan. 20 inaugural, the 360-member choir will appear to be "endorsing tyranny and facism." She says she feels betrayed by the choir's decision to take part.

The choir is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins tells The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/2ieSfXG ) that participation in the choir and the inaugural performance is voluntary.

Hawkins said last week the choir's tradition of presidential performances isn't "implied support of party affiliations or politics."

Chamberlin was not the first person to criticize the famed choir's decision to perform at Mr. Trump's inauguration.

Former choir member John Bonner, for one, said he was shocked and upset when he heard the news.

"I expect the church to stand on their moral high ground," Bonner told KUTV in Salt Lake City.

An online petition calling on the group to reconsider has thousands of signatures.

Erika Munson, co-founder of the pro-LGBT rights group Mormons Building Bridges, said the performance will be seen as the faith's official stamp of approval for Trump.

She told KUER-FM that she and other Mormons are feeling "huge disappointment, sadness and anger over this."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledged that the response to the announcement has been mixed, though church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that the appearance is a demonstration of support for the office rather than party affiliations or politics.

Two Mormon visitors to Salt Lake City's Temple Square, Gary Hutchings and Brad Holland, told the radio station that they were excited to hear the choir will have a high-profile platform to help the country pull together.

The choir has performed at other inaugurals for presidents, including George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. The choir's president said the group is honored to appear at the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony for Trump as well.

But many voters in majority-Mormon Utah bristled at Trump's brash demeanor and his comments about women, minorities, and Muslims during his campaign. As Lucy Schouten reported for The Christian Science Monitor:

As it has nationally, Trump's campaign has created a rift in Utah's Republican Party, openly dividing Mormons and other GOP voting blocs and transforming the Mormon-rich, Republican stronghold into a swing state for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson.   

Many of Utah's leaders and prominent Mormon elected officials refused to back Trump, such as Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, and Rep. Mia Love, while others flipped between supporting and denouncing the brash billionaire.

He ended up winning the largely Republican state but with a lower margin than previous GOP candidates.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir isn't the only group facing a backlash after announcing an appearance at Trump's inauguration.

One of the Radio City Rockettes took to Instagram to say she was embarrassed about the gig, and online critics are urging a boycott.