A Catholic school in Durham, NC canceled classes after they received threats of protests if a lesbian councilwoman spoke at a planned Black History Month event.
Councilwoman Vernetta Alston was invited to speak to students at Immaculata Catholic School's Black History Month event this week. Alston is an alumna of the school.
Alston tweeted a letter after school administration uninvited her, citing the threats.
In her letter she said she always "felt like home" at the school, and that the school "built the scaffolding for my character and values."
"Immaculata is a religious institution and I believe strongly in the freedom to believe and worship how one chooses, even if a belief conflicts with something fundamental to my own life," Alston wrote.
She said she was "deeply disappointed that my colleagues and I were uninvited to the school's Black History Month celebration and that the event was altogether canceled."
"That said, adherence to that basic principle means that I can freely say that the Church, by depriving the students at Immaculata of the chance to honor black history, and in doing so, condemning the lives and rights of the LGTBQ community, is sending a sad, regressive, and life-altering message to our children. That the voices and experiences of those within the black community can be canceled and that inclusion is not valued by some who are charged with shaping their character. I reject that message."
According to the school's website, the campus was closed Friday and all events were canceled.
Father Christopher VanHaight wrote in a letter to parents:
"Regrettably, I understand from a variety of sources that a number of groups are planning demonstrations at our school that day to register their respective opinions regarding Vernetta Alston. As pastor I cannot place our Immaculata students into this contentious environment."
Immaculata's African American Heritage Committee released a statement in support of Alston, saying they were "stunned, frustrated, and extremely disappointed" that she was disinvited to speak.
"Sadly, a few expressed concerns about Ms. Alston's presence at our school," the committee said. "Questions were raised about her sexual orientation and her public stance in support of gay marriage as contrary to Catholic doctrine. In response to these concerns, church authorities rescinded Ms. Alston's invitation to speak."
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson said they "value our LGBTQ community immensely here in Durham" and hopes the school will "reconsider their harmful decision."