Homophobic vandals graffiti pro-gay church, but church fights back with love

A LGBT-inclusive church has responded in the best way after they were targeted by vandals.

The letter board outside Allendale United Methodist Church in St Petersburg, Florida, was defaced in the late hours of Sunday night (September 23).

The words “gay pastor” were scrawled across the large sign in black spray paint, in an incident the St. Petersburg Police Department are treating as a suspected hate crime.

But rather than be intimidated by the graffiti, the church—which is led by Reverend Andy Oliver—has decided to simply own it.

(Allendale UMC)

The pastor decided to leave the message on the sign, with a few helpful additions. Several large, rainbow-coloured hearts now adorn the graffiti, alongside the message, “LOVE ALWAYS WINS.”

A message on the church’s Facebook page says: “LGBTQ people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group.

“We will leave the spray paint up, surrounded by signs of love, to make visible the often invisible harm that the LGBTQ community receives every day.”

At the time of the vandalism, the sign displayed a message urging people to support Amendment 4, a state ballot measure to restore voting rights for prisoners.

The church added: “We are also taking this opportunity to tell the [vandal] that should they be arrested, we will fight for the restoration of their rights through the passage of Amendment 4.

“Thanks to members of the community who raised funds, we already have a new sign on order from July when someone threw a brick.

“We also have cameras to install.”

The other side of the sign (Allendale UMC)

The firm response was met with praise.

One person said: “Every day I pass your sign it makes my day. Its messages are always heartwarming, inclusive, and relatable. I’m not a religious person, but I love what you stand for. While this breaks my heart, I know your community is strong and your response is wonderful.”

Another added: “As always, you combat hate with love, and ignorance with education. There is always a choice on how to react, and you always lead by example. Love will always win.”

Rev. Oliver told the Tampa Bay Times: “This is just one example of the type of hate crime and hate message the LGBT community goes through regularly.

“It certainly isn’t great our sign got vandalised, but we want to surround that message of hate with a message of love, and that’s what we’ve received since.”