Culture

New Orleans Mayor Bans Grammy-Winning Christian Singer Lauren Daigle from Dick Clark's New Year's Eve Show

Lauren Daigle performs during the Dove Awards in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

Christian performing artist Lauren Daigle has won a couple of Grammys and five Billboard Music awards, but her talent and popularity notwithstanding, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell claims she committed the unpardonable sin.

That would be performing without a mask in a “Let Us Worship” protest gathering in November in the French Quarter’s Jackson Square. The protest was organized by evangelical activist Sean Feucht and was held without a city permit.

“Ms. Daigle cannot and should not be rewarded with national media exposure and the public spotlight,” Cantrell told Dick Clark Productions in a December 9 letter that was made available to the media. Cantrell was referring to the annual “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” show.

“She harmed our people, she risked the lives of our residents, and she strained our first responders in a way that is unconscionable — during a public health crisis. This is not who we are, and she cannot be allowed to represent New Orleans and the people she willfully endangered.”

Cantrell’s letter sparked outrage among other Louisiana office-holders, especially Attorney General Greg Landry and Lieutenant-Governor Billy Nungresser. Cantrell is a Democrat, while Landry and Nungresser are Republicans.

“The result of her actions was a decision by Dick Clark Productions to pull Lauren Daigle from the lineup and any celebration from Louisiana to be broadcast worldwide,” Nungresser said in a statement Tuesday.

“In the long run, this action will not only hamper any efforts for New Orleans to recover from the pandemic, but also every city in the state which offered to host the event, and the state as a whole,” Nungresser said.

Landry zeroed in on the constitutional concerns raised by Cantrell’s censorious demand.

“Your rights to protest and worship are enshrined in the First Amendment. I vow to do everything in my power to protect them,” he wrote in a letter to Daigle that he made public via Twitter.

“And I offer my assistance to work with more hospitable regions in our state, like your home Parish of Lafayette, if you and Dick Clark Productions wish to move the event,” Landry added.

But it was Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory who in a Facebook post, pointed to the Cancel Culture aspect of the affair. Daigle is from Lafayette.

“We’ve just seen the tremendous cost of mindless negativity. This was a wonderful chance to showcase our state and one of our premier talents to the world. Now, it’s gone.

“Now, one of our greatest shining talents is kept from a worldwide audience waiting for her message of hope. And our most famous city is again left behind. It’s this kind of unthinking venom, lashing out without regard, that is destroying our country.”

The Daigle flap comes amid a remarkable series of federal and state court decisions sparked by the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s clearly discriminatory anti-Covid regulations that shuttered religious congregations, while leaving “essential” businesses open. 

In that November decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch observed that under Cuomo’s edict “people may gather inside for extended periods in bus stations and airports, in laundromats and banks, in hardware stores and liquor shops.

No apparent reason exists why people may not gather, subject to identical restrictions, in churches or synagogues, especially when religious institutions have made plain that they stand ready, able, and willing to follow all the safety precautions required of ‘essential’ businesses and perhaps more besides.

The only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as ‘essential’ as what happens in secular spaces.

Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.

In the weeks since, the California Superior Court moved against similarly discriminatory anti-Covid regulations issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blasted Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s anti-church rule, and the High Court itself applied its November precedent in knocking down such edicts in Colorado and New Jersey.

Normally it’s politics and law that are downstream from culture, which is in turn downstream from philosophy and theology. In the Cantrell-Daigle flap, however, it appears the law, at least, is way ahead of the culture.

Finally, one more detail of this controversy reminds us of just how distant Cancel Culture can be from the facts: It appears Daigle never was slated to be part of the New Year’s Eve production!