12/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Chicago's Gay High School Plan Was Scuttled

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus is one of most powerful evangelical ministers in Chicago.

In the past 10 years, he has seen his New Life Covenant Ministries congregation in Humboldt Park expand from 120 members to about 4,000 while two new sites, a social service agency and a recovery and retreat center for women were added.

He has also made a name for himself in Chicago politics, serving as executive assistant to the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from 1998 to 2000, campaigning for Barack Obama over the past year, and serving since 2004 on the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Nationally, De Jesus serves as vice president of Social Justice for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves about 15 million born-again Christians across the country.

But Chicago Public Schools spokesman Malon Edwards said it wasn't clout that won the reverend a private audience with schools' CEO Arne Duncan in mid-October, where the reverend and 10 of his colleagues expressed their opposition to a proposal to open an LGBT-friendly high school.

"It's not unusual for Arne to sit down and talk to members of the general public," Edwards said.

But some gay rights activists, who thought the proposal was on track for approval prior to Duncan's meeting with DeJesus, are raising eyebrows.

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