Religious debate explodes after school concert canned
YOUNG school children involved in this year's Victory College Christmas concert wanted to don costumes, embrace a colourful Lego theme and put smiles on their peers' faces.
These budding performers expected to battle a few last-minute nerves and the odd forgotten line, but instead are in the spotlight of a prickly religious argument.
A complaint from one state primary school parent has led to an early curtain call.
The concert was due to take place Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with primary schools from across the region to attend, but was cancelled last week.
The complaint triggered a response from the Queensland Education Department, resulting in letters being sent home with school children to explain the decision to parents.
A spokeman from the Department of Education, Training and Employment explained the ban yesterday.
"The Victory College Christmas concert does not satisfy the definition of religious instruction as per the Queensland education legislation or the Department of Education Training and Employment's Religious Instruction policy statement," he said.
Victory College school chaplain and children's church pastor Cheree Hughes has been organising the concert for six years and said the cancellation was a big blow.
"I received a phone call last Tuesday and heard the concert was cancelled for all churches involved," she said.
"Because of one person, no one has the option now to attend."
Ms Hughes said the Christmas concert was a "fun event" and like religious instruction in schools, the choice of attendance should be left to parents.
"Parents have a choice for their children to be involved in religious instruction (in state schools) and the same thing should apply here," she said.
"Don't stop everyone else who gets enjoyment out of the event."
The concert's cancellation a week out from hitting the stage devastated its young cast.
"We put in a lot of effort and work this year," Ms Hughes said.
Parents have taken to social media to vent their outrage at the decision, arguing one parent's objection and the subsequent concert ban has made the decision for everyone.
Gympie mum Shannon McVey joined the online chorus denouncing the ban.
"I think it is absurd one person can have this impact," Mrs McVey said.
"There was a choice before but now where is the democracy?
"The decision has been removed from parents."
Victory Church pastor George Miller agreed yesterday, saying he was "extremely disappointed" parents were not consulted.
"It is sad for all parents and the concert was not compulsory," he said.
The Gympie Times attempted to contact the parent responsible for the complaint without reply at the time of print yesterday.