Vandals in Syracuse, New York, utterly destroyed a church’s rainbow flag.
May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society’s president Stephanie Cross and Minister Jo VonRue posted on Facebook that they found the burned remains of the church’s Pride flag this past Sunday.
“We believe this to have been an act of hate and fear and a police report has been filed,” they wrote in the Facebook post.
Cross told CNYCentral that she believes the flag was burned in an act of hate.
“I was upset because it certainly represented some anger and violence,” she said.
“My initial concern was for my congregation – have I led them into a place of danger,” said VonRue.
But she said that she was also concerned about LGBTQ people in Syracuse who have to deal with this hatred regularly: “My second initial reaction was for our gay and lesbian community in Syracuse.”
The church says that it’s a welcoming place for LGBTQ people, and that’s why they fly the rainbow flag.
“We fly a gay pride flag on our property to show the community that we support all people,” VonRue said. “People who identify as gay, lesbian transgender, bisexual, or queer come to our congregations because we are truly a welcoming place.”
Syracuse police said that whoever burned the flag could face a felony charge if they were motivated by anti-LGBTQ hatred.
“If there is some bias for the reasoning for this of damaging the flag then when it gets to court towards the end near sentencing they can up the charge to a felony,” said Sergeant Matt Malinowski.
Cross and VonRue asked congregants that they will hold a listening circle on the incident and they will be holding a Social Justice Witness event on November 5 at noon, where they “stand together and hold signs of inclusion, affirmation, and love.”
They said that they don’t want to see the vandals charged, but they want a chance to talk with them.
“My hope is for that person or those people that they can find some kind of healing and some kind of peace in their own heart so they’ll stop hurting others,” VonRue said.