RFFM.org News by Dan Gura
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- Nearly 20 members of a choir--which calls itself the Joyful Senior Singers & Ringers--performed in the Illinois state Capitol Building on December 9th. Hailing from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, the unique group of musicians and vocalists, consisting solely of senior citizens, performed near an historic privately-sponsored Nativity scene which has been on display in Illinois' Statehouse since December 2nd.
There was no official estimate, but those present said the Capitol Rotunda crowd was huge. "What a wonderful experience," said Marian Blankenship, a spokesman and member of the choir. "We didn't even use a PA system, yet 16 people sounded like a 100 member choir."
A rendition of "O Holy Night" nearly brought down the house. And the audience, which surrounded the Rotunda space on all five levels was highly responsive, as the choir performed between 12 noon and 1 P.M. near the recently commemorated Springfield Nativity scene.
"What a joy," said Springfield Nativity Scene Committee (SNSC) Chairman, Daniel Zanoza. "My heart nearly burst with joy when I heard about the day's events. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend, but truly this is why so many dedicated people worked so hard to see a representation of Christ's birth standing in the state Capitol. It truly reflected the spirit of the season."
Choir members were also taken on a tour of the Capitol Building complex before their concert. This was the third in a series of musical revues meant to celebrate the Christmas season and the Nativity scene.
For some, the only fly in the ointment was the presence of a denigrating sign put up by an organization which calls itself the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, the FFRF is the same group which caused controversy in the state of Washington after erecting a sign with identical wording which, according to many, is meant to insult the faith of Christians, Jews, Muslims and any individual who believes in a power higher than themselves.
"The juxtaposition of the two displays is telling," said Zanoza. "The Nativity scene and accompanying plaque, proclaims love for one's neighbor and a prayer for hope and peace in accordance with Christ's message. On the other hand, the message on the FFRF sign is designed to antagonize and belittle the faith of others. A group that claims to seek equality and tolerance clearly demonstrates intolerance. I am disappointed the sign is located where it is, but I guess it has a right to be there."
Some Constitutional scholars say there may be an issue of propriety regarding the placing of the atheist sign. A Menorah which also now stands in the Capitol Building shares the message of hope and good will cited Zanoza, while the FFRF message is hardly appropriate in its placement among the Nativity scene, Menorah and the state's "holiday" tree.
A touching demonstration took place shortly after the Joyful Senior Singers & Ringers concluded their performance. "After the program, we gathered around the negative sign and prayed," said Blankenship. "It was certainly the conclusion of a day we will all remember for the rest of our lives."
Any group interested in performing in the Illinois Capitol Rotunda can contact the SNSC by either calling the Chicago-based Thomas More Society at (312) 782-1680 or e-mail Dan Zanoza, SNSC Chairman, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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