Navy Band to perform at local anti-LGBT Catholic school

Spokesperson: Band wasn't aware of anti-LGBT history when facility was booked

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The U.S. Navy Concert Band will hold a concert next month, choosing a local anti-LGBT school with a recent history of discrimination as its performance venue.

The band, heralded by the branch as “one of the Navy’s signature outreach programs,” is on a spring 2015 tour of 32 cities in six states. Charlotte is one of its stops on Feb. 18, where it will perform at Charlotte Catholic High School.

The school and the local Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte recently sparked controversy after it fired openly gay, longtime teacher Lonnie Billard. The school and diocese said they fired Billard after he announced his intention to marry his same-gender partner. Publicly intending to marry or getting married if one is gay, the diocese said, is considered “a public act that is in disobedience to Church teaching.” The diocese has also had recent controversy over its 2012 firing of a music director and the anti-LGBT statements of a nun Charlotte Catholic High hosted for a student assembly last year.

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The actions of the school and diocese differ significantly from the policies and practices of the federal government, the U.S Navy and other branches of the military included. In 2010, Congress repealed the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, fully implementing open service for gay and lesbian service members in September 2011. The federal government and the military also recognize marriages between same-gender couples.

The Navy Band’s concert on Feb. 18 is free and open to the public.

“The concert is a family-friendly event, meant to be entertaining to veterans, families, individuals and those interested in joining the Navy.” Aaron Porter, master chief musician and public affairs director for the U.S. Navy Band, said in an emailed response to questions from qnotes.

Porter said no taxpayer dollars were used in securing the performance facility at Charlotte Catholic.

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“Appropriated funds for Navy Band tours are generally only used to pay for travel, lodging and food,” he said.

Porter also said the band wasn’t aware of Charlotte Catholic’s recent controversies when it booked the space, but said school gyms are often used for performances.

“Sites were chosen based on where the band has previously performed as well as venue size and availability,” Porter said. “School gymnasiums are common locations for Navy Band performances given their central location in most communities. The Navy arranged to perform in the Charlotte Catholic High School gymnasium with these considerations in mind.”

David Hains, spokesperson for the Charlotte diocese, did not immediately return a request for comment when contacted on Thursday.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.