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A Mormon Tabernacle Choir member is resigning because the group agreed to sing for Trump

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings at the first session of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 185th Annual General Conference in 2015. (George Frey/Reuters)
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The decision was not an easy one, wrote Jan Chamberlin.

Ever since “the announcement” — as Chamberlin called it — she has “spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony,” she wrote in a Facebook post that was no longer public by Friday evening. “I have reflected carefully on both sides of the issue, prayed a lot, talked with family and friends, and searched my soul. I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in Choir for all the other good reasons.”

Ultimately, though, Chamberlin decided that she could not stay in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Chamberlin, a singer in the famed group, is resigning after learning that the choir would appear at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

“I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events,” she wrote on Facebook. “I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.”

Chamberlin wrote that by “singing for this man” the choir would appear to be “endorsing” tyranny and fascism, and its image would be “severely damaged.” Moreover, she wrote, it would leave many feeling betrayed, as she already did.

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In the post, Chamberlin also appeared to compare Trump to Adolf Hitler, writing that “history is repeating itself.”

“I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler,’ ” wrote Chamberlin, who did not immediately return a request seeking comment Friday. “And I certainly could never sing for him.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced earlier this month that it would be performing at Trump’s inauguration ceremony. The volunteer choir has performed at the swearing-in ceremonies or inaugural parades for George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, according to its website.

“The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a great tradition of performing at the inaugurals of U.S. presidents,” Ron Jarrett, the choir’s president, said on the site. “Singing the music of America is one of the things we do best. We are honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration of our next president.”

Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in an email that participating in the choir is voluntary. That includes performing at Trump’s inauguration, Hawkins wrote. A limited number of choir members are expected to appear there, and none of the members are required to participate in the ceremony.

“Response to the announcement has been mixed, with people expressing both opposition and support,” Hawkins said in the email. “The choir’s participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings, and 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.”

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After the choir’s performance was announced, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the group “has performed at a presidential inauguration, but it is likely the most controversial.” An online petition against the church’s decision to let the choir perform argued that did not “reflect the values of Mormonism and does not represent its diverse 15+ million members worldwide.”

“As members and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we strongly urge the Church to stop this practice and especially for an incoming president who has demonstrated sexist, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic behavior that does not align with the principles and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” read the petition, which has been signed by more than 25,000 people.

The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer took at look at Mormon support for Trump after the choir’s participation in the inaugural was announced. Wrote Zauzmer:

Mormons opposed Trump’s candidacy for president more than any other traditionally conservative religious groups. Ordinarily strong supporters of Republican candidates — 80 percent of Mormons voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and 78 percent voted for fellow Mormon Mitt Romney in 2012 — far fewer Mormons voted for Trump.
According to an exit poll, 61 percent of Mormons picked Trump, and 25 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. A large number voted for third-party candidates, especially Evan McMullin, a Mormon and a former CIA agent who mounted a last-minute independent bid.

“We’re honored to have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform in the 58th Inauguration, their sixth time participating in inaugural ceremonies, and we look forward to their uplifting performance,” Boris Epshteyn, the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s director of communications, said in an emailed statement, when the committee was asked about Chamberlin’s decision.

The news comes not long after the Radio City Rockettes, who are also expected to appear at the inauguration, encountered some backlash for their scheduled performance. The Madison Square Garden Co., which employs the dancers, said in late December that the Rockettes would participate in the inauguration in January, but the announcement left some expressing concerns over social media.

The company said members of the dance group are not being forced to participate.

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified the Salt Lake Tribune. The post has been updated.

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