The Lee's Summit (Mo.) school district has agreed to relocate its back-to-school convocation after many teachers objected to having the event at a church that espouses anti-gay beliefs.
The Kansas City Star reports that after teachers learned last week that the district, for the second year in a row, had scheduled its welcome-back event at the Abundant Life Church, they began to organize a protest against the convocation, set for Wednesday.
Teachers made plans to come to convocation wearing rainbow-colored T-shirts, gay pride stickers, pins and buttons supporting the LGBTQ community.
District leaders succumbed to the teacher's protests, and have decided to move the event to the Lee’s Summit High School field house.
The latest controversy involving the Lee's Summit disstrict comes two weeks after the superintendent was given a $750,000 buyout to leave his job after a lengthy controversy over whether district employees would take part in racial equity training.
The Abundant Life Church has a “Statement of Faith” on its website that says, “We believe that the home was the first institution God provided for man; that marriage is a sacred relationship between one man and one woman for life; and that homosexuality is a perversion of God’s natural order of one man for one woman.”
Phil Hopper, the church’s lead pastor, said: “We welcome everyone at Abundant Life. We believe that God loves everyone and is for every single person. We also believe that God is the one who defines human sexuality in scripture and it is what our church believes.” He said the church values the relationship it’s had for several years with the district. “We look forward to serving and partnering with them in the future.”
The Lee’s Summit district has partnerships with several area churches, including Abundant Life. Churches, district officials say, are community entities that help the schools with such things as food pantries, volunteering in schools and putting food in backpacks to feed hungry students.
District leaders wanted to hold the convocation at the church because it was free and big enough to accommodate the 2,200 employees, says Kelly Wachel, the district spokeswoman.
But the district opted to move the convocation because “we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable,” and officials wanted to be sure teachers knew “we are listening,” Wachel says.