Magazine article Insight on the News

Money Seems to Be Motivating Factor at American Red Cross. (Fair Comment)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Money Seems to Be Motivating Factor at American Red Cross. (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

The second week of March started out badly for the American Red Cross. The TV news program 60 Minutes devoted one of its segments to searing criticism of the way in which the organization handles the big bucks it collects ostensibly to provide assistance to victims of major disasters.

That was followed the next day by a blast from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. It asked more than 100 organizations to drop their support of the American Red Cross because the Orange County, Calif., chapter had canceled an invitation to a student choir to perform at a large function the previous day. Why? Because the choir was planning to sing a medley consisting of "America the Beautiful" "Prayer of the Children" and "God Bless the U.S.A."

A spokeswoman for the Orange County chapter explained the cancellation by saying, "We wanted songs representative of all races, all creeds. We are not a religious organization. We have to be neutral and impartial in all situations." The national headquarters in Washington supported the invitation's cancellation, issuing a news release that said, "The dispute was over the music program and has nothing to do with patriotism.... The dispute centers only on our sensitivity to religious diversity and a preference for a music program that would be inclusive and not offend different populations participating in this particular event."

Cherilyn Bacon, director of the group from the Orange County High School of the Arts that had been invited to sing, had arranged the medley, titling it the "Heroes Trilogy." It was her intention to honor those involved in rescue efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks. An American Red Cross representative objected to the medley, saying the lyrics might be offensive to some of the 400 guests at the annual Volunteer Recognition Awards.

Bacon told the Associated Press, "We have never had a complaint about the medley. People have cried when they heard it. I think the Red Cross is taking the issue too seriously." The organization took it so seriously that it disinvited Bacon's group and substituted another one from the same school, perhaps a group that promised not to sing any songs that used the words "God" or "prayer."

In a news release accompanying the letter asking more than 100 groups to withhold support, Catholic League President William Donohue said, "The American Red Cross has every right to adopt the platform of political correctness by censoring the free speech of young men and women who want to honor God and country. …

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