The national office of the American Red Cross has issued an official apology after the organization excluded a student music group in California from performing for a Sept. 11 volunteer-recognition event last Sunday because it planned to sing songs mentioning “prayer” and “God.”

As WorldNetDaily reported Saturday, First Act, a choral group made up of middle school-aged students from the Orange County High School of the Arts, had been invited to entertain at the Red Cross luncheon. The group planned to perform “Heroes’ Trilogy” and to dedicate it to the 9-11 volunteers. The arrangement includes three songs: “America the Beautiful,” “Prayer of the Children” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”

According to First Act’s director, Cherilyn Bacon, Red Cross spokesperson Patricia Johnson told her those songs were inappropriate for the event, since “religious words … will offend some.” Bacon says Johnson also nixed a song based on the Declaration of Independence because it is “a political document.” The Red Cross says there was “no discussion” about the Declaration.

“We need to remain a neutral organization,” Lynn Howse, public affairs director in the Orange County Red Cross office, told the Fox News Channel on Friday.

Bacon mentioned that her group has received rave reviews for its moving rendition of “Heroes’ Trilogy,” which was arranged specifically to commemorate Sept. 11.

“The kids have performed these songs for a wide variety of organizations, from the Democrat and Republican Parties to the Santa Ana Interfaith Council,” she said in a statement. “Without fail, the performance has brought tears and instant standing ovations. From Muslim to Hare Krishna to Christian to Jew … there has been unanimous applause.”

The initial e-mail response from the Red Cross to WorldNetDaily readers who contacted the organization about the controversy defended the decision.

The response claimed Bacon “hung up on the Red Cross” and then “sent a press release that characterized the discussion as the Red Cross being unpatriotic.”

Said the e-mail, “The Red Cross is guided by its Fundamental Principles that include neutrality and impartiality – and a guarantee that we provide assistance to people in need regardless of race, nationality or religious background.”

In a statement late yesterday, however, the Red Cross said the “judgment we made to exclude certain songs from the Sunday program was a mistake.

“We want to apologize to the community and to any people who were hurt or disappointed by our actions.”

The statement says the organization used its “inviolate” guiding principles – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntarism, unity and universality – in dealing with the situation but that, “like many things in life, it is important to use reasonable judgment in applying principles to the everyday circumstances we confront.”

“The apology is accepted,” Bacon told WorldNetDaily. “Sometimes it’s worth it to stand up for what you believe.” She hoped her students would learn that lesson after having been a part of the controversy.

Bacon, however, still has concerns about the Red Cross, mentioning that Congress established the organization as “a patriotic society.”

“I want to make sure they’re not allegiant” to any other nation, she said.

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