School officials in Miami have called off their effort to terminate a church’s agreement to lease school facilities after determining that the pastor’s expression of biblical beliefs was within the Constitution.
“The school district acknowledges the constitutional right of all persons to express themselves freely. Our firm belief is that, under the law, constitutionally protected freedom of speech for all, including those who lease our facilities, must be observed even when it may be perceived as offensive to some,” said a report from Supt. Alberto Carvalho to the school board.
“It is this obligation to protect those freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution which forms the basis of our decision,” he said.
The issue arose when Impact Miami Church Pastor Jack Hakimian preached on the biblical position on homosexuality: It’s a sin.
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools then announced it was “reviewing” its lease with the church.
The superintendent claimed then that the sermon violated the school’s anti-bullying and nondiscrimination policies.
But the non-profit legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel sent a letter to Carvalho stating that any effort to rescind a facilities usage lease with a church because of the pastor’s sermon on homosexuality would be a violation of the First Amendment.
Hakimian said, “The reason why I am dealing with [homosexuality] so much is because there is an aggressive approach by … gay theologians that says the Bible never spoke about homosexuality in a way that contemporary Christians understand it.
“It’s all over – it’s on YouTube, its on CNN, and its on ’60 Minutes.’ They are not just saying, ‘accept us’ – and I believe we should protect, and not bully, and treat all people with dignity and respect – but they are going beyond and above to change the very meaning of Scripture,” he said
Liberty Counsel said the nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies of the Miami-Dade School Board are “not applicable” to the church situation.
“Pastor Hakimian and the church have violated no law or policy. The district cannot discriminate on the basis of his biblically sound viewpoint. Any attempt by the school board to modify, change, or revoke the lease agreement would be unconstitutional,” the organization said.
In the decision presented to the board, Carvalho appeared to reach the same conclusion.
“Earlier this month, school board members received information from a local news reporter that included allegations of anti-Semitic and anti-gay remarks allegedly made during church services held at North Miami Senior High School, which the Impact Miami Church uses under a facilities agreement with the school district,” the report said. “The school district researched the allegations and found that no anti-Semitic remarks had been made; apparently, this was an error on the part of the reporter. The school district initiated a legal review to fully understand the implications of the alleged remarks and their relationship to school board policy.”
The report said: “The legal review by the office of the school board attorney is now complete, and there will be no action on the part of the school district to terminate the contract, as long as the Impact Miami Church continues to make lease payments in advance by cashier’s check, as specified by the lease agreement, and ensure[s] that the organization’s insurance coverage remains current.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said his group recently has seen stepped-up attacks against free speech.”
“It is outrageous that a public school superintendent could think he has the right to threaten revocation of a lease because of what the pastor preaches in the pulpit,” Staver said. “No public official is above the law. The First Amendment stands as a bulwark against homo-fascism.”