Religious leaders at two churches vandalized with racist and anti-LGBTQ graffiti referencing President-elect Donald Trump strongly condemned the messages of hate with calls for love and acceptance.
The phrase “Trump nation, whites only” was written on the back of a sign advertising Spanish-language religious services at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland, congregation members discovered Sunday morning. The sign had also been slashed in several places, and a brick wall in the church’s memorial garden was defaced with the same slogan. The church serves a predominately Latino congregation.
After services Sunday, Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, addressed a group outside the church.
“We have just concluded our worship services in a church that has been desecrated by violence,” Budde said. “We stand here to say that we are firm in our rejection of such violence and that we are a nation of immigrants and a people of all cultures and faiths and that there is no place for such violence in our land.”
Congregation members wrote chalk messages of unity and love in both English and Spanish on sidewalks outside the church. A person who has no connection to the church started a GoFundMe campaign to help replace their sign, raising $1,000 in donations by Monday afternoon.
“We want to call attention to the fact that while we were touched by this hateful thing, love always trumps hate,” Parish Administrator Tracey Henley told The Huffington Post. “We are overwhelmed with the community response. ... They responded by opening their arms and embracing us.”
Montgomery County Police Captain Paul Starks said they have multiple detectives investigating the “hate incident.” They do not have any leads, but are encouraging the public to come forward with tips.
“We take this seriously,” Starks said, adding that this kind of crime affects the entire community.
In Bean Blossom, Indiana, a swastika and the messages “Heil Trump” and “fag church” were spray-painted on St. David’s Episcopal Church Saturday night. The Episcopal Church is open to LGBT members, and local news station WTHR notes that the St. David’s once performed a same-sex wedding.
“We are disappointed that our safe haven has been vandalized but will not let the actions of a few damper our love of Christ and the world,” the Rev. Kelsey Hutto, priest in charge for St. David’s, wrote on Facebook.
The vandalism at St. David’s appears to be a hate crime, Gregory Pittman, public information officer for the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, told HuffPost. They forwarded the initial report to a state investigator assigned to a hate crime task force. Pittman said his agency is investigating, but they don’t have any suspects yet.
A week before the presidential election, a black church in Mississippi was burned and vandalized with the message “Vote Trump,” prompting a flood of donations.
In the days after Trump’s win, a wave of racist and hateful incidents have been reported around the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked over 200 acts of harassment and intimidation between Wednesday and Friday, though they did not independently verify each incident.
I would call especially upon the president-elect and those who voted for him to separate themselves from acts of violence and hate that are being perpetrated in his name. Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde
Trump said during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday that he wasn’t aware of any racist attacks.
“I am so saddened to hear that,” Trump said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the camera: ‘Stop it.’”
He also blamed the media for focusing on the acts of hate.
Trump’s campaign, which stoked xenophobic and racist fears among some of his supporters, brought white nationalism and the so-called alt-right into the mainstream. His win was celebrated by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who wrote on Twitter that “our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!”
On Sunday, Trump announced that Steve Bannon, Breitbart News Network executive chairman and a major figure in the white nationalist movement, would serve as his senior counselor and chief strategist.
According to the SPLC, Bannon “was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
Budde addressed Trump directly as she denounced the vandalism at Episcopal Church of Our Saviour this weekend.
“I would call especially upon the president-elect and those who voted for him to separate themselves from acts of violence and hate that are being perpetrated in his name,” she said. “We do not want our friends of color and our immigrants and other people who feel vulnerable to imagine that this is who we are as a nation.”
Anti-Trump protesters have filled the streets since the election to condemn his attacks on immigrants, Muslims, women and minorities. Several hundred students at a Silver Spring high school walked out of class Monday to stand up for groups targeted during his campaign.
This story was updated to include comment from the Montgomery County Police Department.
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