Controversial sermons at public school questioned

By Jeff Weinsier, Reporter, jweinsier@Local10.com
Published On: Jul 15 2012 10:52:21 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 15 2012 11:00:00 PM EDT

A South Florida pastor calls it "free speech" and the "word of God," but the Miami Dade County Public Schools calls it disturbing and appalling and is now reviewing its rental agreement with a church called Impact Miami.

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. -

A South Florida pastor calls it "free speech" and the "word of God," but the Miami Dade County Public Schools calls it disturbing and appalling and is now reviewing its rental agreement with a church called Impact Miami. 

Impact Miami and Pastor Jack Hakimian rent space inside North Miami Senior High for Sunday services. 

Some say the pastor's anti-gay sermons don't belong inside a taxpayer-funded school building. 

"He has the right to preach whatever he wants in his church. I have a problem that that venue is being used to spew negative hatred," said Rabbi Dr. Jory Lang of Beth Moshe Congregation in North Miami. 

"The space is provided by people who he is condemning or by the friends of the people he is condemning," said the Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins of the Sunshine Cathedral.

One of Hakimian's sermons is titled, "Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change." Another is titled, "Pedophiles Use the Same Argument as Homosexuals and the Weed Smoking Community." 

Hakimian has also compared homosexuals to drug abusers and witchcraft in a sermon. Hakimian preaches and teaches to a congregation of 100 and pays the Miami-Dade school district $1,428 a month to use North Miami Senior High.   

"I'm real interested to see what the school system says once they realize what's going on," said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE DADE, an organization that fights for gay rights. "It's disturbing." 

The Miami-Dade school district appears to have had no idea what Hakimian was preaching in their school. 

"The school board chair, as well as the superintendent, have both reviewed the allegations and found this disturbing and appalling," said Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesman John Schuster. "The school board attorney and school staff will be reviewing the contract to see if we should move forward with it." 

The Miami-Dade school district rents to other organizations, including religious organizations, and there are rules. But, those rules don't regulate speech and religion

Hakimian says under equal access laws, he has the right to preach in North Miami High and he is not preaching hate. 

"They don't want to go there. How do you manage people's voices and opinions? What will the school say, 'This is right; this is not right?" said Hakimian. 

Hakimian has no plans to move.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho issued a statement, saying: "We appreciate Channel 10 notifying us of these allegations, which 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. 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."

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