Pastor calls stolen flag a hate crime

2011-04-30T02:00:00Z 2011-04-30T19:31:22Z Pastor calls stolen flag a hate crimeBrian Wellner The Quad-City Times
April 30, 2011 2:00 am  • 

An openly gay Davenport pastor says it's a hate crime that someone would repeatedly steal the flag outside his church and damage the flagpole.

Last week's theft was the sixth time in a year that Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities has been robbed of a Christian pride flag, the Rev. Rich Hendricks said.

"Every time I put a new Christian pride flag up there, it disappears," he said.

At first, he considered the thefts a nuisance and didn't contact police. But after so many thefts, the flagpole has been damaged to the point where a flag no longer can be raised to the top.

"It's frustrating," he said. "Now we have to get a different flagpole. They're not cheap."

Davenport police have not investigated the thefts because a report has not yet been filed.

Hendricks doesn't know who is behind the thefts, but considered the action "a lack of respect for church property, for Christian values that flag stands for, as well as the inclusivity the flag stands for," he said.

He has temporarily raised a pride flag at the church at 3019 N. Harrison St., but said it's not the same. A Christian pride flag has the cross on blue background of the Christian flag superimposed on the rainbow colors of the pride flag. One flag costs about $65 to replace, Hendricks said.

"I think it's a hate crime, because I don't hear about other folks' flags getting stolen," Hendricks said.

He's encouraging his neighbors and passers-by to call police if they see a theft in progress. And he said he will file a police report on the recent thefts.

"Somebody is targeting that church, no doubt about it," said Joyce Wiley, interim executive director of Quad-Citians Affirming Diversity.

A local advocate for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, the group has formed a religious concerns committee comprised of 20 area pastors helping all places of worship become supportive of gay and lesbian members, she said.

"The majority of Quad-Citians want to be supportive and fair," she said.

Rabbi Henry Jay Karp of Temple Emanuel in Davenport, a leading Quad-City spokesman for equal rights and fairness, said the attack on Hendricks' church echoes the prejudice-fueled vandalism his temple has suffered in the past.

"It's not surprising that Metropolitan Community Church has been targeted because there's a lot of prejudice out there, a lot of ugliness when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation," Karp said. "It's not surprising but sad."

Temple Emanuel's leaders won't put a bulletin board outside their building because of past vandalism.

"If we put one of those bulletin boards out, it's like we're inviting someone to vandalize it," he said.

Although that decision was made years ago, Karp doesn't think people are more tolerant now.

"I think the same issues exist today, and I wonder if the same issues are even more so," Karp said.

The rabbi said an attack on one place of worship is an attack on all places of worship.

"If you endorse prejudice against one faith group, you're endorsing prejudice against all faith groups," he said.

"The sad reality is there are those people out there who do hate and act upon their hate. You never know when they're going to strike or where they're going to strike," he added.

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