The Bergen Arts and Science Charter School, a New Jersey charter school, told a student to cover up a mural she created in support of LGBTQ rights.
The school, which leases a building from the Holy Trinity Church that was formerly a Catholic school, painted over part of the mural that included a rainbow heart. The student, a 16-year-old high school junior, upset over the incident, turned to Twitter to protest.
The student wrote,
“So…my school’s owned by a Catholic Church and they want me to take down my Keith Haring mural that supports the LGBT community. They think it’s inappropriate and wrong for a school setting. I’m heartbroken and I really never thought this could actually happen. Please help.
She later posted,
“UPDATE!! My art teacher was forced to paint over the rainbow heart. FORCED, by my administration. This school is infringing on my rights just as much as the church now. A public school is complicit in discrimination.”
The Rev. Paul Prevosto, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, said the mural was first brought to his attention by parishioners because of a depiction of male figures that he said looked
“obscene… It was offensive.”
According to NorthJersey.com,
Charter schools are public schools that are privately managed… A lease agreement for the school includes a stipulation about Catholic values. “Due to the Catholic nature of the Landlord, Tenant promises to conduct no affairs or establish any organizations that would be contrary to its Catholic moral values, ethics and faith,” the lease states.
Prevosto said that, per the lease, anything “that would be contrary to our Catholic sensitivity should not be displayed or seen.”
The New Jersey Department of Education said it was looking into the matter and declined further comment about whether any state policies could have been violated.
Earlier this year, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to adopt a law that requires schools to teach about LGBT history, including the political, economic and social contributions of individuals who are gay and transgender.
In a statement, iLearn Schools, Inc., the nonprofit management group that operates the Bergen Arts and Science Charter School, said,
“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.”
The Catholic Church opposes sexual relations between people of the same gender, but also teaches that LGBTQ individuals shpuld be treated with
The student said her honors art class painted murals inspired by famous artists in the school cafeteria and hers was a piece that was an homage to artist Keith Haring, who was gay and active in the LGBTQ rights movement of the 80s.
She said that “as a queer student,” she wanted to pay homage to Haring’s work, but did not intend it as a political act and didn’t want to go against her school or the church.
The Keith Haring Foundation‘s Director, Julia Gruen posted this email she received on Facebook,
“ Dear sir,
the lgbth student from Hackensack nj who attends that charter school Which leases the building from trinity Roman Catholic Church has no right to complain if the charter school owned the property then you have a right to paint whatever you want on a wall how dare you act like the Catholic Church is at fault the student nor the lgbth community has a right to push your values on the church or its parishioners I do not agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches only on the essentials I am a conservative bible believing Lutheran elder and the Bible says your lifestyle is contrary to gods word so if you want to label me a homophobic that is your choice but I follow the Bible which says love the sinner hate the sin I don’t see large crowds of heterosexuals protesting against gays and their freedom to express themselves I do see large crowds of angry gay lesbian and transsexuals I tv protesting against the rights of heterosexuals to freedom of express their beliefs I guess the lgbth community is hetrosexual phobic”
Gruen later post this image saying,
“THIS is the ‘obscene’ image that the school insisted be painted over.”
Holy Trinity Church is part of the Archdiocese of Newark, which said last week that it was also looking into the matter.
So…my school’s owned by a Catholic Church and they want me to take down my Keith Haring mural that supports the LGBT community. They think it’s inappropriate and wrong for a school setting. I’m heartbroken and I really never thought this could actually happen. Please help :( pic.twitter.com/A4zrR39J5M— 𝓫𝓻𝓮 (@mamidiabIa) May 21, 2019
(Photo, Twitter; via NorthJersey.com)