BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Pastor Jack Hakimian is demanding an apology from Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who this week said he would consider keeping the pastor from renting space at North Miami High School.
Hakimian is a controversial figure who preaches that gays "can repent, they can through the spirit of God subdue their tendencies." He has posted YouTube videos titled Bible Say's Gays & Sex Addicts In General Can Change & Should Change (Matthew 5:27-30) and Pedophiles Use The Same Argument As Homosexual & Weed Smoking Community.
Hakimian pays the school district about $20,000 annually to rent space at North Miami High for Sunday school classes.
Earlier this week, Carvalho issued a statement to WPLG-Channel 10 reporter Jeff Weinsier that Hakimian's teachings "appear to be contrary to school board policy, as well as the basic principles of humanity, and I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved. ... I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance."
On Friday, Hakimian held a news conference that also featured Miami-Dade County conservative leaders Anthony Verdugo of the Christian Family Coalition, Eladio José Armesto of the Catholic Cultural Fund, and Nathaniel J. Wilcox of People United Leading the Struggle for Equality (PULSE).
"I never thought I'd be penalized for teaching on Christian marriage and sexual ethics from the Bible, the very Bible that presidents swear on, in a privately rented space at an event not sponsored by the school or district," Hakimian said. "We ask Mr. Carvalho to retract his intolerant statements, apologize and commit to never again to bully or discriminate against those he disagrees with."
Hakimian also said he would consider suing the school district if he is evicted.
After the news conference, Miami-Dade Schools spokesman John Schuster issued the following statement:
The Miami-Dade school district respects the first amendment rights of all citizens, including those who lease facilities, and has demonstrated great reverence and partnership with the faith-based community. However, statements that seek to demean or defame representative groups within the community on the basis of any legally protected designation are not congruent with board policy and impel the administration to review relationships with those who may be contracting district facilities. The district is not in the business of policing speech, but has a responsibility to review allegations of intolerance or prejudice when they are brought to our attention.
The District has been notified of allegations which appear to be contrary to School Board policy, and a legal review of the facilities use agreement in question has been initiated. The legal review is currently underway.