George Nathaniel Stang, 26, stands accused of a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, after confessing that it was he who spray painted homophobic, pro-Nazi and pro-Trump graffiti last November, including a swastika, on the church where he was the organist.
When confronted by police, Stang — who is gay — reportedly admitted to staging the vandalism and wrote in a handwritten statement to police that he did it to “mobilize a movement” following the election of Donald Trump.
“To be clear, my actions were not motivated by hate for the church or its congregation,” Stang wrote, according to the Indy Star. “I suppose I wanted to give local people a reason to fight for good even if it was a false flag. I of course realize now that this was not the way to go about inspiring activism.”
During their six-month long investigation, police questioned Stang — who was the first to alert Rev. Kelsey Hutto on November 13th — and he denied being at the church the night the messages “Heil Trump” and “Fag Church” were spray painted. But on Wednesday, they returned to his apartment and showed him how cellphone tower data had pinpoint his location, at the church, on the night the vandalism occurred.
Detectives say he immediately confessed. He told police that his parents are not supportive of him being gay.
Prosecutors tell WBIW-TV that they do not believe Stang was motivated by hate and so he is not charged with a hate crime.
“This incident has been a blight on our small and diverse community, and I am proud of the hard work put forth by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, especially Detective Brian Shrader and Sheriff Scott Southerland,” said Brown County Prosecutor, Theodore Adams.
After bonding out, Stang explained how last November’s election, and the fear it generated, motivated him to fake the vandalism of his church.
“Over the course of that week, I was fearful, scared and alone, too, in my fear,” Stang told IndyStar. “I guess one of the driving factors behind me committing the act was that I wanted other people to be scared with me.”
“I’m very sad to have created more hate in a world that already has too much hate,” Stang said. “The congregation doesn’t deserve it, the emotional turmoil I put them through.”
Epsicopal Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows issued a statement on Stang’s arrest, which appears below the video from WISH-TV.
I was saddened to learn this morning that the vandalism of St. David’s Church in Bean Blossom was committed by the church’s organist, Nathan Stang, who has admitted to police that he spray painted hateful graffiti on the church last November in the wake of the presidential election. This was a hurtful, dishonest, and profoundly misguided action that stands against the values of the people of this diocese and the Episcopal Church, and we will continue to cooperate with the authorities who are pursuing this case.
We are living now in a political climate that is so divisive and highly charged that people from all across the political spectrum are making thoughtless and hurtful choices that they believe are justified by the righteousness of their causes. As people who follow Jesus, we must find a different way.
Christians are called to hold one another accountable for our choices and actions, but also to offer one another love and forgiveness. I do not know Nathan, who is not a member of the diocese and has worked at the church for about a year, but media reports indicate that he felt frightened and alone in the wake of last year’s presidential election and that he was attempting to catalyze a movement by instilling a sense of fear in the congregation and community. Many people in our country, particularly members of sexual, religious and racial minorities, have well-founded reasons to be fearful in these difficult times, but this terrible situation illustrates why we must resist the temptation to play to those fears. Our job, as people of God, is to speak the truth in love, admit our own sins, and be ever mindful that seeking justice includes ending fear for all God’s people.
I know that this incident has been deeply painful for many people at St. David’s, in our diocese, in Bean Blossom and surrounding communities, and across the country. As bishop, I want to offer my sincere apology to those who have been hurt both by what happened in November and what is happening today. As this story unfolds in the media and in the courts, I hope that you will join me in praying for St. David’s and its leaders, for Bean Blossom, for Nathan, and for everyone who has found in this incident a reason to be afraid.