Durham Catholic school cancels class Friday amid threat of protests over gay speaker

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- An openly gay Durham City Council member's appearance at a local Catholic school has been canceled.

Immaculata Catholic School is closed on Friday amid planned demonstrations.

The school sent an email to all parents notifying them.

"I extend my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause to you and the schedule for your family that day," said Pastor Christopher VanHaight.

The school said it had planned to kick off Black History Month celebrations at their morning prayer on Friday with a variety of speeches, including one from Vernetta Alston, an Immaculata alum. Alston represents Ward 3.

"If the issue was her being gay, he wouldn't have booked her in the first place to speak. It's not a secret that she's gay. It's not a secret she's married to a woman and that they have a child, so I think if that were the issue, they never would've gotten to this point," said eighth-grader parent Brad Williams. "I think it stinks. I think it stinks that my daughter is going to miss out on hearing what would've been an awesome speaker to kick off black history month."

"As pastor, I cannot place our Immaculata students into this contentious environment," said VanHaight. "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."

ABC11 has reached out to Councilmember Alston for comment along with the school.
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