In today’s news of shameful hate, we have a Catholic school in Durham.
Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, North Carolina is in headlines after it canceled classes on February 1st. The reason? Unspecified groups were allegedly planning to protest a speaker at the school.
Vernetta Alston is a member of the Durham City Council who was planning to appear at the Immaculata Catholic School to talk about Black History Month. But, it appears that some locals are uncomfortable with Alston because she is openly LGBTQ.
Even worse, Immaculata later decided to cancel several following Black History Month speakers who were scheduled to talk throughout the month.
According to the News Observer, Father Christopher VanHaight later penned the below letter to Immaculata families about the cancellation.
“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, an Immaculata alumna and Durham City Council member, who initially had been listed as one of the event speakers,” VanHaight wrote.
“As pastor I cannot place our Immaculata students into this contentious environment.”
“In the education and formation of your children, it is our mission as a Catholic school to assist Catholic parents in clearly teaching our Catholic faith, show respect for the dignity of every human person, and to invite all children to encounter Our Lord Jesus and to follow Him,” he added.
“I express my gratitude for your understanding and patience as we close this trying week,” he wrote. “I also ask you to join with me in praying for faithfulness, strength and healing within and outside of our parish community and city.”
Father VanHaight refused to share details about which groups threatened to protest.
In response to this initial letter, Alston, who the Herald-Sun says is married to a woman and the mother of one, released her own.
“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,” she wrote.
“That said,” the attorney continued, “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.”
Thankfully, the school’s African-American Heritage Committee reached out to Alston to have her speak at the weekly Friday morning prayer. The theme for that specific meeting was influential African-American women.
“We reached out to Ms. Alston because she is that,” said committee chair Danielle Sutton.
“This was not a school decision,” she added. “There was no conversation between church officials and the heritage committee. It’s very disheartening.”