BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A large Alabama church has lost its leases with the city of Birmingham’s school district amid criticism of social media activity by its senior pastor.
The Birmingham City Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday to terminate its leases with the Church of the Highlands, which had been holding services inside two high schools, news outlets reported.
And the day before, Birmingham’s Housing Authority voted to end its partnership with the church, which had provided outreach programs and social services in a public housing community.
Senior Pastor Chris Hodges recently apologized after screenshots shared online showed him “liking” posts by Charlie Kirk, the president of the pro-Trump organization Turning Point USA. The posts were criticized as being racially insensitive, news outlets reported.
“I can tell you those social media posts that I ‘liked’ do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings or beliefs,” Hodges said in the June 2 statement. “I now realize they were hurtful and divisive, and I sincerely apologize.”
Some of these posts promoted President Donald Trump, attacked former President Barack Obama, and questioned the idea that white privilege exists.
Kirk tweeted this in response to the backlash: “If you cave to the leftist, activist media mob they will come for you next. Stand up to the mob, have courage, trust in the Lord, and fight for truth!” Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, tweeted that the city officials’ decision to cut ties to the church is “absolutely insane.”
The church had paid the Birmingham school district an average of $12,000 a month to use the two high schools for services, AL.com reported. The school board did not discuss its vote to terminate the leases, which was unanimous, according to multiple news outlets.
The housing authority told news outlets that its board of commissioners “agreed that Pastor Hodges’ views do not reflect those of HABD and its residents; and Hodges’ values are not in line with those of HABD residents.”
In response, Hodges told AL.com, “We want to publicly thank the Birmingham Housing Authority for the opportunity they provided us to serve them over the years. We continue to support their work and encourage others to do the same.”