A North Miami pastor whose “free speech” has been likened by some to “hate speech” finds himself in hot water with his landlord, the Miami Dade County Public Schools, who are deciding whether or not to renew his church’s rental agreement.
As reported in our June 27, 2012 front page story (“Why, BIG BIRD—Why? Public TV Station Teams with Anti-Gay North Miami Pastor to Halt Strip Club”), Impact Miami church Pastor Jack Hakimian has been accused by members of the LGBT community of incendiary and homophobic remarks during his sermons, and of using selective Biblical scholarship in choosing language for his worship services and sermons.
Hakimian’s sermons have included such subjects as “Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change,” and “Pedophiles Use the Same Argument as Homosexuals and the Weed Smoking Community.” On Facebook, he has posted, “I want to make clear that I disagree based on the scriptures that you can actively be gay and still call yourself a Christian.” For its Sunday church services, Impact Miami rents space inside North Miami Senior High School.
The ministry pays the school district $1,428 monthly to use the space. Although the district rents space to other groups—including faith-based organizations—officials say there are rules that govern the behavior of those organizations while operating on schools’ property. A school spokesman called the content of some of Hakimian’s sermonly subject matter “disturbing and appalling.”
Going one better, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho called Hakimian’s past remarks “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.”
For his part, the pastor is crying foul, claiming that he doesn’t preach hate, and that officials are trampling upon his right to free speech and assembly. “They don’t want to go there,” Hakimian told WPLG Local 10. “How do you manage people’s voices and opinions?”
Superintendent Carvalho responded, saying that, “Notwithstanding legal challenges, I cannot allow the circumstances to trump common sense and decency. I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics, but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.”