California Woman Sonia Tabizada Sentenced for Bomb Threats to Washington DC Catholic School

SAN JACINTO, California—A California woman who threatened to bomb a Roman Catholic preparatory school in Washington, D.C. for planning to publish same-sex wedding announcements in its alumni magazine was sentenced Friday to nearly 1 1/2 years in federal prison.

Sonia Tabizada, 36, of San Jacinto, was sentenced to time she already has spent in custody for making telephoned threats in May 2019 to Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in the District of Columbia, according to court records cited by the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Tabizada has no connection to the D.C. high school, NBC reported. No details regarding Tabizada’s background have been given.

Tabizada pleaded guilty on Jan. 4 to obstruction of religious belief while a second felony charge of transmitting bomb threats in interstate commerce was dropped, the paper said.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Tabizada learned of the decision and left a voice message threatening to burn and bomb the facility.

“Tabizada also stated that she was going to kill school officials and students” if the school didn’t remove the announcements from its magazine, her plea agreement said. “Several minutes later, Tabizada left a second voice mail stating that she was going to blow up the school and warned that she would commit ‘terrorism.'”

She was sentenced to 15 months and 13 days for “intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs.”

“No school and no child should be subjected to death threats, because of their religious beliefs,” said Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

San Jacinto is in Riverside County, southeast of Los Angeles.

Divide in Understandings

The decision by the school to recognize same-sex weddings in its alumni magazine has been met with varied responses from the school community.

The Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, Visitation Prep’s president emerita, announced the decision in a letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post.

“The [Catholic] 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,” Hannan said. “This change is an important part of ensuring that every individual is respected.”

The Archdiocese of Washington said in response that the “Catholic Church teaching on marriage is clear, and it also does not conflict with the Gospel message of love,” according to the Post.

The archdiocese added that while the school is independent, “In the past, Georgetown Visitation has consulted the archdiocese on matters related to upholding Catholic identity, and therefore, it is especially disappointing that this consultation and collaboration was not followed,” it told the Post in a statement.

“The archdiocese has a clear responsibility to ensure independent Catholic schools maintain their authentic Catholic identity and provide advice and guidance on such matters as they arise.”

One graduate who married her same-sex partner nine years ago told the Post that said she was profoundly moved by her school’s announcement.

“To see the school stand with gay and lesbian students and parents and families, I just felt really emotional and grateful,” she said. “I do suspect there will be people who will be upset and outraged about it, but Visitation has kind of made its point, and I don’t think they’re going to back off of it now.”

Meanwhile, a current parent at the school told the Post anonymously out of fear of being targeted for her views, “We chose to send our children to a Catholic school, through great sacrifice, as the tuition is pretty high, because we want Catholic doctrine and Catholic values instilled in our children before they head out into the world,” she said.

“The Church’s teachings on matters of sexuality are healthy and give our girls great grounding. We feel the Catholic faith is really crucial to these girls’ successes, and . . . a lot of us are feeling very cheated right now.”

NTD contributed to this report.