CLARENDON, Texas — A gay couple in this small, north Texas town said they think that a spray painted hate message found on their front porch is linked to an anti-gay newspaper advertisement written by a local minister.
Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers said they found the message “leave or die fags” on their porch Monday morning, and immediately reported the vandalism to the Donley County Sheriff’s office.
In an interview with KVII-TV, Sheriff Charles Blackburn confirmed his department is investigating the crime.
“I consider it a hate crime,” he said.
Harrison and Jeffers said the vandalism on their front porch has them frightened.
“I’m absolutely terrified because if there are people in this town that are willing to go to the lengths to vandalize our house and to scare us, they they might be going the lengths to do physical harm on us,” Harrison said.
The couple said that after a newspaper advertisement — disguised to appear as a news article — ran in late September, residents started treating them differently.
“It’s funny that two weeks after this article comes out in the newspaper that people in town are starting to be rude to us and then we get out front porch vandalized,” Harrison told KVII-TV.
The newspaper advertisement, written by Chris Moore, Pastor of Clarendon Church of Christ, was published in the Clarendon Enterprise, and described the alleged platform of the “Homosexual Movement.”
In the ad, Moore used the National Coalition of Gay Organizations as his source, and listed seven bullet points that warn residents about the homosexual movement, including a line that said, “Folks, don’t be fooled, the ‘gay’ agenda isn’t about ‘equal’ rights for gay couples. Their agenda would force everyone to compromise their values, make our children legal prey for pedophiles.”
KVII-TV reported that it could find no information on the coalition, other than it was a convention from 1972 — 40 years ago.
Moore claimed his advert was factual, but condemns the act of vandalism against the couple. (Read the ad here.)
“What I wrote was facts and if I wrote something that wasn’t factual – I would gladly fix it,” Moore said. “I don’t condone that type of behavior. It is un-Christian to vandalize or be violent to anybody.”
According to Equality Texas, there is a direct link from homophobia to violence.
“Clarendon Church of Christ Pastor Chris Moore is entitled to his own beliefs, and his freedom of speech is protected by the United States Constitution,” said Chuck Smith, Interim Executive Director of Equality Texas. “However, it is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence.”
“Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers should not have to live in fear in their own home simply because of their sexual orientation,” said Smith. “No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”
The couple said they are now considering relocating away from the town.
“It’s sad,” Jeffers said. “For the first time in my life, I have never felt this scared.”