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Man Says Donald Trump Gave Him Permission to Harass Church for Pride Flag

Man Says Donald Trump Gave Him Permission to Harass Church for Pride Flag

Pastor Doug Bland was shaken by the incident.
Pastor Doug Bland was shaken by the incident.

The church responded by putting up a banner that reads "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" next to the flag.

Community Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation in Tempe, Ariz., put up a rainbow Pride flag at the front of the church last year following the Supreme Court's decision for marriage equality. Posted right next to the cross, there the flag has since stood with little incident.

That changed after Donald Trump was elected president.

Last Wednesday, the church reported that a man entered the premises after seeing the flag flying outside, yelling homophobic and abusive language. The man said that Trump's election gave him "permission" to harass the congregation.

Pastor Doug Bland, shaken by the incident, spoke with Tempe's KPHO about what happened.

"He said that if Hillary would have won he would have driven right on by the church without stopping, but because Trump won he felt he had permission to say and act the way he wanted to expressing the hate that he had for this particular group of people," Bland said.

"It made me so angry and afraid for our country," he added.

The man, who has not been identified in the press, allegedly threatened the church in his anti-LGBT rant. He promised to return to the premises with paid protesters who would demonstrate against its LGBT-affirming stance and to spread rumors that the church harbors pedophiles.

He has not returned since making the inflammatory remarks, church officials said.

Bland said the incident represents a challenge for a church that teaches its congregants to love all creation: What's the Christian thing to do about bigotry at your doorstep?

"This is a good opportunity for us to really practice what we preach," he said, adding, "I think it's a challenge to us to make sure we respond with love and with grace instead of responding hate for hate."

"No matter when we're living there's always going to be some kind of cloud hanging over us, conflict we have to face," Bland continued. "Right now, the division in our country over what does a real democracy look like and how can we be citizens together and move forward as a nation is sort of the cloud that we're facing."

The pastor first responded to the incident by posting a "prayer chain" on Facebook, urging compassion during a dark and unsettling period in our nation's history.

"I also ask you to pray for our nation," Bland wrote. "We are in a new and very uncertain political world, post-truth and post-civility. Some feel that they have been given permission to speak and act in hateful and cruel ways. Pray that there will be leaders in our community and our nation who will not tolerate hate, threats and violence."

In addition, the church remains steadfast in its support of the LGBT community, putting up a banner to show Trump supporters that it won't back down in the face of homophobia. The banner reads "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," a reference to a 1984 Bruce Cockburn tune.

At the time of writing, the unidentified man has been charged with no crime.

Authorities say that because he did not harm anyone at the church or directly incite violence, there's nothing they can do at this point. Should he return to the church, however, the man could be arrested for trespassing.

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Nico Lang