SLO Expressions / Screenshot

A teacher at a Southern California high school is under fire for writing a virulently anti-LGBTQ screed—complete with a Bible quote saying gay people “deserve to die”— in the school’s online student newspaper.

Michael Stack works at San Luis Obispo High School. On May 9, he wrote, “I love the staff and students at SLOHS. My students know that. But I love God more, so in obedience to Him, I am writing this letter.”

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Stack’s letter was reportedly a response to an earlier edition of the newspaper, SLO Expressions, which featured a same-sex kiss on the cover.

In the more than seven paragraphs that followed, Stack explained that he did not “want to displease God any more than I already have with my sinful life.”

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“In obedience to Him, I’m asking you to please slowly read and consider the following excerpt from the book of Romans, Chapter 1, verses 16-32, in the New Testament,” Stack continued. “It describes a deception that has happened in the past, and is happening again right now, not only at SLOHS, but throughout the world”

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Stack then quoted the following passage:

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and shameful things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the creator Himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them too. [emphasis mine]

On Facebook, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon expressed her shock and anger at Stack’s letter, calling it “unacceptable”—particularly given the high degree of suicide within the LGBTQ community already.

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“Please share your concerns with the SLO School Board and the SLO High Administration,” Mayor Harmon urged, adding, “I’ve contacted the School Board- you might do the same.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, Stack is a first year probationary teacher whose contract was not renewed by the district this past February.Nevertheless, district school officials have hesitated to act on this incident, citing freedom of speech protections for Stack’s letter.

“A bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable,” district District Superintendent Eric Prater wrote in a statement, cosigned by SLOHS Principal Leslie O’Connor.

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Superintendent Prater and Principal O’Conner later wrote that “School districts are limited by federal and state law from regulating speech in a student newspaper such as SLO Expressions. School officials only have the authority to regulate the content of student publications so that it conforms to the ‘professional standards of English and journalism’ and to ensure that the content of the speech is not prohibited by law.”

For students at SLOHS, however, Stack’s letter was more than simply an expression of free speech.

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“To post something where all your students can see and your students can now know your opinion on that, that’s an issue,” SLO student Steven Saavedra, told NBC affiliate KSBY “And though he has freedom of speech, I think it was used inappropriately.”

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In response to Stack’s letter, a rally for school’s LGBTQ community has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

“I believe this man should not be allowed back on campus,” the event’s Facebook page explains. “But this is more about showing our young people we support them.”