Garden State Equality Condemns Erasure of Student’s LGBTQ Pride Mural in Hackensack Public School Over Church Objections

Garden State Equality Condemns Erasure of Student’s LGBTQ Pride Mural in Hackensack Public School Over Church Objections

Church has extended history of censoring curriculum and student speech on LGBTQ Issues within the school

 

This week, an LGBTQ pride mural created by a student at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) was painted over following complaints by the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church, who called the rainbow heart “offensive”. BASCS is a public school that is privately run as a charter school.

 

Garden State Equality was informed by the student, a sixteen year old high school junior at BASCS, that the school has a long history of restricting education and censoring faculty and students’ speech within the school.

 

Following complaints by the landlord in 2018, the school abolished a long-running daily educational program, which taught students about a unique historical figure each day, after the school included LGBTQ figures during Pride Month. Additionally, the school’s psychologist was forced to remove a poster supportive of LGBTQ students. The poster was signed by faculty and students and merely declared the office a “safe space” for LGBTQ students to enter for support.

 

New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law, passed in January 2019, will take effect in the 2020-2021 school year, and as a public school, BASCS would be required to implement the law.

 

“It is offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional for this church acting as a for-profit landlord to restrict a public school’s curriculum or censor student speech within those walls. This type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “Garden State Equality will never back down from fighting for LGBTQ youth, and we call on the Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to restore the artwork and enhance its curriculum to teach its students that hate and censorship are not welcome in New Jersey’s public schools.”

“The school’s actions in destroying a student’s artwork is rank censorship and out of step with New Jersey values and our laws. Decades ago, the United State Supreme Court held that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’” said Garden State Equality board member and former state bar president Thomas Prol, Esq. “It is sadly ironic that an educational institution is now delivering a lesson in censorship to these students during their tender years.”

The Archdiocese Of Newark released the following statement in response:

The Archdiocese of Newark embraces and welcomes all within our faithful community – it’s unfortunate that facts regarding wall paintings at the Bergen Arts & Science Charter School have been grossly misrepresented.

The Holy Trinity Church simply raised two concerns. First, that the school refrain from consistently painting on the building surfaces. Secondly, that the school remove some content in a new painting, which included some symbols of sexuality that were inappropriate for the building, as the building is utilized by parishioners of the Church, as well as the School.

While the focus of attention has been on an illustration of a heart – there was neither any specific discussion about that section of the painting, nor direction to remove it. Clearly the school or teachers decided to amend that part of the mural in response on their own.

As already indicated, since the building is utilized by parishioners of the church, as well as the school, Holy Trinity simply has asked the tenants to be cognizant of this when displaying information and materials. The mural violated that understanding in its permanent nature – directly painted on the surface – and in some of the content.

We wish that Garden State Equality first had contacted us directly about the matter.  We are more than willing to meet with them to discuss it.

GSE released the following statement in response:

Yesterday, Garden State Equality released a statement condemning the removal of a student’s LGBTQ pride mural at a Hackensack public charter school over church objections. In response, last night The Archdiocese of Newark claimed that “there was neither any specific discussion about that section of the painting, nor direction to remove it.”

Today, Garden State Equality is calling on the church to restore the student’s mural.

The following statement may be attributed to Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino:

Rev. Paul Prevosto—the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack which is the landlord of BASCS—is on the record calling the 16-year-old student’s LGBTQ pride mural “sexual,” “offensive,” and “obscene” while confessing he demanded the school “to take care of it.”

Garden State Equality works with many affirming religious institutions, but few have come close to displaying such militant opposition to LGBTQ people and recklessness for the facts throughout history.

In spite of Rev. Prevosto’s public comments, The Archdiocese of Newark claims they neither discussed nor directed the school to remove the student’s LGBTQ rainbow heart mural, so if they sincerely want to “embrace and welcome” everyone as stated, we expect The Archdiocese’s swift and urgent call for the school to restore the mural.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Comments are closed.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape