- (Photo: Impact Church in Miami)
A Florida school superintendent has backed down from evicting a church that meets in a public school over its opposition to homosexuality.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, sent a memo to the school board last week stating that "no action" would be taken after all against Impact Church in Miami, which meets at North Miami High School.
"The school district acknowledges the constitutional right of all persons to express themselves freely," reads the memo in part. "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."
Jack Hakimian, pastor at Impact Church, told The Christian Post that he believed the superintendent's change of mind was not a change of heart but rather done for legal reasons.
"I think that he was advised to basically not pursue the matter because there was no constitutional basis, but he's definitely not apologizing," said Hakimian.
"We're definitely safe for now. We'll see what happens next year when our lease comes to renewal … of course we get first priority so it will be interesting to see what they do next year."
Last month, Superintendent Carvalho released a statement to local media stating that he would look to terminate the lease of Impact Church over its position against homosexuality, stating that the church's position "appears to be contrary to school board policy as well as the basic principles of humanity."
"I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved," Carvalho told Local10.com, adding, "I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance."
Impact Church, a member church of the Southern Baptist Convention, had been renting the space since February. The controversy gained nationwide attention, as SBC President Fred Luter gave his opinion on the matter on Fox.
"We're living in a day and time when people are calling wrong right and they're calling right wrong," said Luter. "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."
Pastor Hakimian told CP that he felt the incident was evidence that the issue of gay rights would be a major external struggle for the church, especially "in the next decade."
"I think this is what's happening right now and the trend is increasing. There's sympathy for homosexuals that their identity is wrapped up in their behavior," said Hakimian.
"I think globally, this issue will increase and it's going to be the pressure cooker on religious communities and the way that we are viewed as intolerant."