Just two weeks after a man tore down a pride flag from a church in Federal Hill, a congregation in the Station North area said its LGBTQ flag was stolen from its building.
Pastors from those two churches worry that the incidents indicate a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ hate. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently reported an increase of violent threats against LGBTQ people, during a time the nation is seeing a wave of anti-trans legislation.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, on St. Paul Street, tried to report the incident to Baltimore Police Department as a hate crime, Emily Scott said, but detectives are investigating it as larceny. Scott, who is a pastor at St. Marks, said the police told her that the department won’t consider it a hate crime because there was no written or verbal expression of hate.
Police said the officer explained the policies of the department and advised that the incident did not classify as a hate crime.
The church has been affirming to LGBTQ people since the 1980s, Scott said. The pride flag hung outside of the building about 15 feet high. Someone would have needed a ladder to reach it and be able to remove it, she said.
“It feels really pointed,” said Scott, who is genderqueer.
While she said she is not necessarily worried for her or the congregation’s safety, the fact that the incident happened around the same time a man ripped off a pride flag at Light Street Presbyterian Church is concerning.
Almost two weeks ago, a young man climbed the church on Federal Hill to rip off a pride flag that hangs on the building. Benjamin Luster, a community resident who was walking his dogs back to his house, saw the man climb one time, slide, fall on his back and try to climb again with a knife in his pocket.
“This is an abomination against God,” the man yelled, according to Luster. Police are investigating the incident.
In response to the vandalism, Tim Hughes Williams, a pastor at Light Street Presbyterian Church, held a fundraiser to donate to a local queer rights advocacy organization.
“I feel like at the moment this is a very strange moment for queer people of faith,” Hughes Williams said. “On the one hand, the environment particularly in Baltimore has never been more supportive, but then nationally … it’s kind of never been scarier because there’s this increasingly acts of violence intimidation.”
Scott said the congregation will likely get a new flag. For now, she changed the letters on the signboard on the church.
“You can take our flag, but LGBTQ lives remain sacred to God,” the signboard read.
Julie Scharper contributed to this story.