CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Health Department is offering an apology after an email went out from the county encouraging ministers to speak out against Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) District's revised Multiculturalism Policy.
The policy change includes offering students, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status to feel welcomed and the district's curriculum should reflect that type of diversity.
The email was sent to members of Village HeartBeat. That is a group of churches that receives funds from Mecklenburg County's Health Department and Novant Health to offer services to members to help keep them well. The problem is no county leader approved the email to send out advising members to come out against CMS' revised policy.
"When you are talking about tax dollars, funding a program, a citizens funded program, there can be no issue of equivocation when it comes to inclusion on all matters," St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church Sr. Pastor Clifford Matthews said.
Matthews' congregation is part of Village HeartBeat. He believes a county run organization should not weigh in on a policy that deals with inclusion. Matthews says there should be a separation.
"I find it reprehensible. I find it a lack of training at best and I wonder in question is the department where bigotry is allowed to reside," Matthews said.
Wednesday, Matthews met with people from the health department and Novant Health to discuss what happened. Novant Health gives thousands of dollars worth of in-kind services to Village HeartBeat. The group met behind closed doors for more than an hour discussing what went wrong.
"It's not right It's not acceptable. The county does not have a stand or not made any decision about any policy. CMS is one of our partners. We do not boycott public health and public health does not discriminate," Mecklenburg County Health Department Director Gibbie Harris said.
Harris says the email should not have gone out and now wonders where was the breakdown within the department.
"It will require some tightening up of how we communicate to the public," Harris said.
Many ministers part of the Village HeartBeat thought passing the revisions would allow CMS to push a social agenda and change curriculum that would embrace students' different lifestyles. CMS superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox responds to the ministers' concerns.
"We understand we don't teach Catholicism. We don't teach Hinduism. We don't teach Buddhism. We're certainly not going to be teaching kids about the choices they may make relatively to their orientation, but it is a design to lay an underpinning for our teachers to say that we'll provide you with curriculum when kids ask you naturally here's a way to respond," Wilcox said.
Ophelia Garmon-Brown is Novant Health's senior vice president of community health and wellness. She was also disturbed to find out a letter from the county went out encouraging people to speak out against CMS. She thought Village HeartBeat was about inclusion.
"I was appalled. I could not believe Village HeartBeat - a part of the county would even be involved in that," Garmon-Brown said.
After the meeting, people wanted the county health department to offer a public apology. All left the meeting encouraged that a lesson has been learned.
"This never should have happened," Garmon-Brown said. "And this needs not happen again was so clear in the meeting, I'm good to continue our support."
No word when a public apology will happen.