When sister Mary Berchmans, president emerita of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, the oldest Catholic school for girls in the United States, tried to do the right thing by highlighting the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ alumni in the school magazine, she never imagined the type of backlash the school would receive.
It began in May 2019, when Berchmans announced in a letter to former students that the magazine would publish any updates they choose to share with their former classmates -- including announcements of same-sex marriages. The decision to do so came about after a period of reflection on the significance of the teachings of Jesus.
"Recently, a Visitation friend invited me to reflect upon what it means to love Jesus in relationship with our LGBT+ alumnae," she wrote at the time, according to the Washington Post. "As a professed Sister of the Visitation for 67 years, I have devoted my life in service to the Catholic Church. The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love."
Berchmans went on to explain that the magazine would begin to publish news of any alumni's same-sex unions as well as all updates they "choose to share with their classmates."
A couple days later, Sonia Tabizada, 36, heard about the decision and called the school to make violent threats over the new policy, which included bombing the building and recruting "soldiers" to commit the crime, according to the Daily Beast.
"Hey motherf**kers, I'm going to burn that f**king church, I'm going to bomb it, b***h!" said Tabizada, who reportedly lives in Southern California and is not an alumni of Visitation, which is located in Washington D.C.
"I'm going to f**king kill you guys," she reportedly said. "I'm going to send my f**king soldiers, motherf**kers. Remove the f**king gay motherf**kers from your magazine or I'm going to f**king kill your kids. That's a promise."
Tabizada made a second call: "What kind of pervert priests do you guys have running the show? Nobody cares for those girls? You're crushing the innocent, motherf**king a**hole."
She continued, "I'm gonna f**king blow up the school and call it a mission from God. You guys are going to get terrorism within your f**king school, motherf**ker. And you're going to be guilty. And I warned you!"
Tabizada has since pled guilty in a federal court to "intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs" by threatening to bomb 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," said Eric Drieband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "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."
Michael R. Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, added, "The defendant's violent threats were directed at the free exercise of a private school community's religious beliefs. An attack upon the free exercise of any person or group's religious beliefs is an attack upon the civil rights of every citizen. Today's guilty plea is part of my office's commitment to ensuring that all District citizens can safely exercise their religious beliefs and that all of their civil rights are protected."
Tabizada faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. She will be sentenced at a hearing scheduled for March 23, 2021.