Newark, N.J., May 24, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Newark has instructed a charter school to cover a pro-LGBT mural painted on church property.
Fr. Paul Prevosto, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack, instructed administrators at Bergen Arts and Science Charter School to paint over the mural on a cafeteria pillar, after parishioners complained that church property was being used for the display.
Bergen Arts and Science leases the school building from Holy Trinity. Both the church and the school share use of common spaces including the cafeteria, which the church uses the space for events and parties.
Several charter schools in different dioceses rent space from empty school buildings owner by parishes.
The mural was painted by a 16 year-old student “to support the LGBT community.” The painting featured a rainbow heart and interlocking abstract male figures, which were covered following the instruction.
Fr. Prevosto said that parishioners had come to him with concerns about the “sexual” depiction and that he had instructed the school to “take care of it.”
The lease agreement between the school and church states that “due to the Catholic nature of the Landlord, [the] Tenant promises to conduct no affairs or establish any organizations that would be contrary to its Catholic moral values, ethics and faith.”
According to reports in the Bergen Record, Fr. Prevosto was simply applying the terms of the lease in the light of concerns expressed by the church community and that anything “that would be contrary to our Catholic sensitivity should not be displayed or seen.”
The non-profit organization which manages the school, iLearn Schools Inc., stressed the importance of mutual respect in resolving the situation.
“As a public school, we are inclusive, supportive, and respectful of the artistic expression of our students, and likewise are respectful of the directives of the church as a private entity and owners of the property,” iLearn said in a statement to local media.
LGBT activist organization Garden State Equality released a statement Friday demanding that the mural be restored and calling the church instruction “militant opposition to LGBTQ people.”
A statement released by the Archdiocese of Newark on May 23 said that the facts of the matter had been “grossly misrepresented” in local media reports, calling the situation “unfortunate.”
“The Archdiocese of Newark embraces and welcomes all within our faithful community,” the statement said.
“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.”
“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.”