News (USA)

Vandal tears down church’s rainbow banner in possible hate crime

Pastor Matt Laney, a white grey-haired man of the cloth at the Virginia-Highland Church, holds the torn-down banner which is a rainbow progress Pride flag with the words "A just world for all" written on it.
Pastor Matt Laney holds the torn-down banner Photo: WAGA-TV screenshot

A vandal targeted an LGBTQ+-affirming church in Atlanta, Georgia, tearing down an inclusive rainbow banner that hung on its front outdoor wall. Now police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

On Tuesday around 5 p.m., an unknown man approached the outside of the Virginia-Highland Church and tore down a banner that had the words “A just world for all” written in black letters upon a progress Pride flag.

The church’s Pastor Matt Laney told WAGA-TV that the vandal “tore it down very aggressively, clearly trying to make a statement unfortunately.”

Laney noted that his church’s congregation is at least 40% LGBTQ+-identified. He feels the vandal targeted his house of worship because of its embrace of queerness.

“When you’re out loud and proud as we are, as a community getting our message out there, there are those who don’t agree and sometimes disagree in ways that are disagreeable and hateful,” he said. “[But] when the hatred rises up, when the shadows gather, that’s an opportunity for us to shine more love and light in the world.”

The aforementioned news station noted that, last summer, queerphobic vandals targeted another LGBTQ+ affirming church about a mile away, the Church at Ponce and Highland. Vandals spraypainted the word “demon” on the church’s front display sign which read, at the time, “God is proud of who you are.”

“God is a god of love and inclusion, big tent, and that everyone belongs. Those who are marginalized, those who have been pushed to the edges of our community, are especially seen and loved by God,” Laney told the news station.

Attacks on LGBTQ+-inclusive churches have seemingly increased recently. Just last year, a neo-Nazi firebombed a church for planning to host a pair of drag events, two men tried to shout down a pastor delivering a Pride church service, and unknown people placed anti-LGBTQ+ fliers on the vehicle windshields of people attending pre-Pride month services.

While conservative Christians say that God disapproves of LGBTQ+ people, many progressive Christian churches welcome queer congregants and incorporate messages of queer-acceptance into their sermons and fellowship activities.

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