After the General Assembly passed House Bill 2, the United Church of Christ in Hillsborough raised two rainbow flags as “a strong statement of welcome and inclusion.”
A few weeks later, in the middle of one night, someone set the flags on fire.
“It was kind of surprising how strong that message felt,” said the Rev. Jay Kennett. “Having them stolen is one thing. That’s kind of an aggravation. But the burning and the connotation of that is stronger. I felt very vulnerable for our church members.”
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Members of the church had carried the flags in the annual Gay Pride march.
The church hung two new flags. Two times since then, replacement flags have been stolen. Kennett has a stack of extras sent from all over the country after the flag burning in April. He just keeps replacing them.
“We’re close to Chapel Hill, which is seen as incredibly progressive, but we’re still out a ways where folks have very traditional values and have a really hard time with some of the changes in the world,” Kennett said.
He recalled walking around downtown Hillsborough and seeing a house on his left flying a rainbow flag, and a house on his right flying the Confederate flag.
The United Church of Christ in Hillsborough, with 119 members, welcomes and supports the LGBTQ community. Kennett said passage of HB2 has “been very hurtful, especially in light of the marriage equality decision in the Supreme Court and feeling like we’re finally reaching a place to be included as full citizens.
“To have that happen is like a huge slap in the face to our members.”