One of Charlotte’s best-known gay-friendly churches was vandalized, just hours after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted during an occasionally raucous meeting to take a stand for LGBTQ students.
The phrase “F--- are Pedofhiles” was spray-painted across the front doors of Wedgewood Church off Tyvola Road, with “pedophiles” misspelled. It happened either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, officials said.
“It could be related to the school board meeting, but it’s hard to tell since it’s the seventh time we’ve been vandalized,” said Chris Ayers, co-pastor of the church. “We support what the school board did enthusiastically.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the church buy paint – along with a new security system. It had raised $2,100 as of Thursday morning. “While this could be a reason to fear, we choose to stand together stronger than ever, ready to continue to be the welcoming,” says the GoFundMe page.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers visited the church Wednesday to examine the damage, but Ayers says he was told it will be tough to find the culprits.
It’s easy to spot the church’s pro-gay leanings, because the front door is painted to look like a big rainbow flag. Wedgewood has a congregation of about 80 people, and Ayers estimates half are lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual. “I don’t know for sure, because we don’t ask,” he says. The congregation also includes a diverse mix of whites, Hispanics and African-Americans, he said.
Vandals have targeted not only the front doors in the past but also the flagpole and the sign, which often features pro-LGBTQ messages. In 2016, an anti-gay note was posted to the front door, with a shotgun shell taped to it. The culprit later confessed, Ayers said.
“We’ve seen this happen a lot more over the past two years,” Ayers said. “If it’s not related to the school board meeting, then it’s related to the broader education of the homophobic community.”
The CMS board on Tuesday approved a revised multiculturalism policy expanding the definition of diversity to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, along with such attributes as race, gender, national origin and religion. It also strengthened the mandate to “intentionally (incorporate) diversity throughout the curriculum, instruction, and professional development.”
The 7-2 vote followed an impassioned public hearing. At one point, the Rev. Flip Benham had to be escorted from the meeting after he approached the board members yelling and pointing a finger. He is a vocal critic of the expanded policy.
Ayers says the last time the church’s front doors were vandalised was in 2015, and the congregation held a community “paint party” to cover the offending phrase. However, instead of repainting the doors red, they painted the big rainbow flag seen today. It’s a move that drew national attention to the small church.
“Instead of wallowing in frustration. … Wedgewood turned the incident into a chance to make their church an even brighter beacon for LGBT equality,” reported ThinkProgress.
Ayers says the cash-strapped congregation intends to take the same approach this time. But it will paint an updated version of the rainbow flag, featuring black and brown stripes representing LGBTQ people of color.