A Southern Baptist church called Impact Miami could soon be evicted from its meeting place at the Miami-Dade County Public Schools because of its position on homosexuality, which the school board describes as "contrary...to the basic principles of humanity."
The church reportedly pays roughly $1,500 a month to use the high school facility on Sundays, and both its congregants and pastor feel they are being unfairly punished.
“I never thought I would be penalized for teaching on Christian marriage and sexual ethics from the Bible – the very bible that presidents swear on,” Pastor Hakimian said.
He added that, “as taxpayers we have the right to assemble in public spaces.”
But the school's representatives feel the church's teachings have crossed a line.
After President Obama announced his position on gay marriage had "evolved," the pastor gave sermons that, according to Fox News's Todd Starnes, had titles like, "Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change,” and, “Pedophiles Use the Same Argument as Homosexuals and the Weed Smoking Community.”
“I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved,” the school's head Alberto Carvalho told Local10.com. “I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.”
Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter commented: “We’re living in a day and time when people are calling wrong right and they’re calling right wrong ... Any time a man of God stands up for the Words of God, I think we should expect opposition – simply because of the fact that God’s ways are not man’s ways."
Fox News has more on the backlash from the public:
The possible eviction has enraged religious liberty groups – several of whom have already volunteered their services to defend the pastor and the church should they be thrown out of their meeting space.
“He has the right to be able to speak on Sunday from the Scriptures and speak about his viewpoint on human sexuality,” said Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel. “This is not someone who is advocating violence or some whacko that is extreme that would be a threat to society. This is a pastor who is speaking on issues from their own moral, political and biblical perspective.”
Staver told Fox News that he’s had a chance to review the pastor’s sermons and noted that the messages were in line with that millions of Americans believe.
“It is not contrary to humanity,” he said, refuting the school superintendent’s allegations. “It is absolutely outrageous that you would have a superintendent who would (think) along these lines.” [Emphasis added]
Here is video of Hakimian demanding an apology:
And Staver added that the matter could have implications for communities far beyond Miami.
“It’s serious for all of us,” he said. “If we lose the right to free speech in this area – we lose it in every other area.”
Joel Oster, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, commented: “This church does have a constitutional right to use these facilities. Public schools cannot discriminate against religious use of their facilities based upon viewpoints – and that’s exactly what’s going on here.”
Even the mayor of North Miami, Andre Pierre, has weighed in on the matter, and says he feels confident the school board attorney will side with the church.
“You have to respect the American principles and you have to uphold the Constitution,” he said.