Austin Independent School District tried last fall to discriminate against a local church, but since that effort was thwarted, they’ve found a different way to spite the congregation.
Since last August, Celebration Church has been leasing an Austin ISD performing arts center to host their weekly Sunday services and has so far paid the district $182,000 in rent. Recently, however, AISD announced they’ll be using $10,000 of that to support children’s participation in Austin’s Pride Parade and other LGBT-related activities.
“We know it’s going to be at least $10,000 that we are going to use to support a variety of things, transportation, security, promotional materials,” said Reyne Telles, executive director of communication and engagement for AISD. In the past, the district relied on donations to cover those costs, but now they’ll be using the church’s cash.
The district’s decision comes after they tried to discriminate against Celebration last September. AISD wanted to ban the church from using the public facility for one reason—the church holds the foundational Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. AISD was willing to forfeit the income and discriminate solely because the church does not support deviant and high-risk sexual behavior.
While AISD considered the ban, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton got involved and warned the district that doing so would violate state law and the First Amendment. He urged them to stop “targeting Celebration Church for discriminatory treatment.”
“The district should welcome churches who want to rent its facilities after school and on weekends,” a letter from Paxton said, “not discriminate against some of them based on their beliefs.”
“Despite its current commitment to equal access, the District’s decision to change the facilities use policy is troubling because of the timing and intent of trustees. Austin ISD trustee Ann Teich is on record stating that, in reference to Celebration Church renting the District’s Performing Arts Center, she is ‘not in favor of renting to any entity that doesn’t support our values . . . and that’s full inclusion of our LGBT community.’”
The district ultimately backed down from their ban, but now they’ve found a different way to retaliate against the church.
AISD will also promote LGBT behaviors to children in schools during the district’s pride celebration activities in August and October.