Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Affirming Ohio Church Burned to the Ground: A Hate Crime?

Ruins of South Bloomingville Christian Church. Was the arson a hate crime against a gay-friendly church?

South Bloomingville, Ohio – Arson investigators are keeping mum about the motive for the destruction of South Bloomingville’s LGBTQ-affirming church on August 17, but Pastor Scott Davis is not.  Davis, a clergyman affiliated with the Old Catholic Rite, a group noted for its acceptance of gay people, says that he has no doubt the open and affirming stance of the South Bloomingville Christian Church cause the congregation to be targeted by arsonists. “It’s a hate crime,” the Rev. Davis told Athens News. “In April we received death threats.” Davis is concerned that personnel in the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office, named as an investigating agency in the case, may have been involved in the arson, based on phone texts threatening the congregation earlier in the year. A county sheriff’s deputy, said Davis, “called me a faggot, said he would snipe me and throw me in a ditch,” and then ominously threatened to burn down the church building to put it out of business.  Davis contends that other county law enforcement officials have extremely negative attitudes toward a faith community they identify as “the gay church.”

As far as the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office is willing to go at this time is to issue a short statement remaining neutral on the claims of homophobia being made by Davis and members of the church.  The Fire Marshal’s Office, among other agencies investigating the total destruction of the church’s picturesque white frame building, issued this press release: “Investigators were able to eliminate all accidental causes and determined the fire was intentionally set. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, specific details about how and where the fire was started will not be released at this time.” 

Church members and some local residents of the South Bloomingville area have rallied to the support of the congregation, affirming the welcoming policy of the church for gays and lesbians.  10 TV reports that a moving vigil was held on the charred floorboards of the building that once housed the congregation. Several members and friends of the church spoke to the press, owning the pro-inclusion stance of the pastor and his flock, reminding Ohioans that the Christian message is one of all-inclusive love of neighbor. A story developed by ABC 6 reports that a “Blue Ribbon Arson Award” of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone giving information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the alleged hate arsonist.

It remains to be seen if mainstream media beyond local affiliates will pick up this story and give it the nationwide attention it should have.  Worship center burnings by bigots are a favorite tactic of hate groups seeking to intimidate blacks, Muslims, Jews, and now gay people.  Will the media report the news, or quash it?  This act of terror has, as of yet, not been reported outside of Ohio to any significant degree.  Meanwhile, the South Bloomingville Christian Church may be burned, but they are not broken.

August 25, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, death threats, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Ohio, Old Catholic Rite, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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