Barnegat Leader

Barnegat Mayor Cirulli Stands By His Views During Heated Meeting

By Eric Englund | Sep 17, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Barnegat Township Mayor Alfonso Cirulli

Barnegat — Embattled Barnegat Township Mayor Alfonso Cirulli stood by his comments at last month’s township committee meeting in which he denounced upcoming changes in the New Jersey schools curriculum that will require all districts on the high school and middle school levels to instruct students on the political, economic and social contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Speaking before a packed meeting room Sept. 3 where antagonists and supporters seemed equally loud, Cirulli said his main objection was that the state “had no right to interfere with someone’s religious upbringing.”

“Everyone has the right to live the way they want to live,” he said. “My biggest issue is that there is no way for people to opt out. There are people who would feel this is interfering with their beliefs.”

A retired assistant principal from Pinelands Regional School District, Cirulli said that as an educator, he “protected everyone” and helped develop anti-bullying programs.

“There is no hate or bigotry here,” said Cirulli, whose supporters wildly cheered him as he entered the meeting room. “I am just simply stating my beliefs.”

Deputy Mayor John Novak supported Cirulli.

“I believe that if a law mandates that a curriculum be forced upon children which conflicts with the sexual morals and/or spiritual beliefs of that child’s family, then the parents of that child should have the right to opt their child out of that component of public education,” said Novak. “Sexual morals and spiritual beliefs are a parental function, not a government function.”

During the public portion of the meeting, resident Bridget Nunn, a licensed mental health clinician, reminded the mayor that when he spoke last month, he said the LGBTQ agenda  “was an affront to almighty God.”

“You gave a sermon,” said Nunn. “This curriculum isn’t going to strip away any parent’s rights. This isn’t going to teach kids how to be gay or transgendered. Lord knows that can’t be done.”

Fighting back emotion, resident Patty Clark Brescia said that “all people are worthy of dignity and respect.”

“Don’t hide your personal agenda behind the cross,” she said. “Diversity is inviting people to the party. Inclusion is when you asked them to dance.”

Resident Carrie Diona said Cirulli had no business using his platform to espouse his beliefs.

“First and foremost, your duty is to represent the entire community of Barnegat, not just yourself,” said Diona.

Referring to the increase in suicides in the LGBTQ community, Diona added, “If this curriculum can save the life of just one Barnegat child, then it’s completely worth it.”

Resident Connie Jeremias said Cirulli “has created a circus.”

Referring to how Cirulli’s views from last month’s meeting was picked up by the national media, she said, “Barnegat Township now looks like a bigot town to the rest of America.”

Another resident, Bob Martucci, said that when people complained that Cirulli violated the separation of church and state, they “had no clue.”

“They talk about Congress making no law respecting an establishment of religion, but they forget the second part of the clause, which says Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise thereof,” he said. “Mr. Mayor, you have the same right to express your beliefs from where you sit as the people sitting in the audience.”

But before the meeting, a group of people gathered outside town hall to protest the mayor’s comments. Many people were carrying signs, with former Committeewoman Maxine Blumenthal displaying a sign that read “You swore on Your Bible to uphold the laws of U.S. and N.J. You are in contempt of that oath, Mr. Mayor.” Blumenthal was elected to the committee in 2003 and Cirulli was her running mate.

Other signs said, “All You Need Is Love” and “Equality Is a Human Right.”

Tori Wallace of Barnegat wore a T-shirt that read “Why be a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could just be quiet.”

The mayor had some supporters, too, as John Myers held a sign reading “Children learn about sexual issues from their parents, not the school or state, or pushy liberal agenda.”

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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