Toluca Lake church reports hate crime after pride banner slashed

A LGBTQ+ pride banner hanging outside a Toluca Lake church was found slashed down the middle Wednesday morning, marking one of the latest examples of pride symbols being targeted for vandalism across the nation.

Harmony Toluca Lake, a campus of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, has displayed a pride banner every Pride Month for the last seven years he’s been there, Pastor Mark Stephenson said. This is the first year anything has happened to the banner since he became church pastor.

Stephenson learned the banner was damaged when a neighbor sent him a photo in a text message and said how upset she was. He said he would report the incident to police Thursday as a hate crime.

Church staff said they are equally disappointed to see hate targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community. It’s one of a string of vandalism incidents targeting pride banners and symbols that have been documented across the nation in the last few weeks.

“The LGBT community, they’re not doing anything wrong,” said Emily Redenbach, an administrative coordinator at the church. “There’s absolutely no reason that they shouldn’t be welcomed and accepted for who they are, so it is discouraging to see this kind of behavior be so open and bold.”

On May 31 at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, a transgender teacher’s pride flag was burned. On Saturday, a teenager was arrested in Huntington Beach for allegedly ripping a rainbow flag from someone’s home. On Tuesday in Tempe, Ariz., a pride flag was taken down from a flagpole outside City Hall and burned, according to NBC News.

Stephenson said the church’s slashed banner is going to stay up until their Sunday worship service, then it will be taped up and repaired, and if that doesn’t work, the church will replace it with a new banner.

“I feel that it’s important that the neighbors, as well as our faith community, understand that we are susceptible to the biases and prejudice of others,” he said. “But I want to send a signal that we’re not going to let hate win, that love ultimately wins.”