A California woman has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges after threatening to bomb a Catholic school after it announced it would publish same-sex wedding announcements in its alumni magazine.
Sonia Tabizada, 36, of San Jacinto, Calif., confessed to threatening to bomb the D.C.-based Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, the oldest Catholic school for girls in the United States in response to a May 2019 decision by the school to publish the same-sex wedding announcements in Visitation Alumnae Magazine.
Although Catholic teaching currently frowns upon same-sex relationships, Visitation Prep justified publishing the announcements as part of its teaching that “we are all children of God…worthy of respect and love.”
“As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love,” Sister Mary Berchmans, the school’s president pro emerita, wrote about the decision, according to The Washington Post. “We know from history — including very recent history — that the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes. Yet, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it learns and grows. And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.”
But Tabizada took exception to that, leaving a voice message with Visitation Prep on May 15, 2019, threatening to bomb the school and kill administrators and students unless the school reversed its decision about the magazine.
She then followed up with a second voicemail, reiterating her threat to “blow up the school” and “call it a mission from God,” reports Law & Crime.
“You guys are going to get terrorism within your fucking school, motherfucker,” Tabizada said. “And you’re going to be guilty. And I warned you!”
Tabizada was indicted in January on a charge of intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, and initially pleaded not guilty. She has no known affiliation with the school.
“The defendant made violent threats against high school students, religious leaders, and school officials based solely on her disagreement with a private school’s application of religious doctrine,” Eric Drieband, the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Tolerance and religious freedom are cornerstone values in our society and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute violent threats motivated by bias.”
“Tabizada used threats of violence to intimidate others because of differing religious views,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in a statement. “Every citizen and community has the constitutional right to exercise their own religious beliefs free from fear and discrimination. Defending civil rights is a top priority for the FBI and we will continue to work to protect the civil rights and freedoms granted to all Americans.”
Tabizada will be sentenced at a hearing scheduled for March 23. The maximum penalty she could face includes up to 20 years in prison, plus three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000, according to a DOJ press release.
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