ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — An Allendale United Methodist Church sign urging people to vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 4 in November was targeted by a vandal overnight.
- Vandal spray-painted 'gay pastor' across sign
- Pastor adjusted the sign to highlight inclusivity
- Church has dealt with vandals before
The vandal spray-painted the words ‘gay pastor’ across it in large, black letters.
“We woke this morning to find out that someone had spray-painted, vandalized our sign,” said Pastor Andy Oliver. “We’re a church that radically welcomes and affirms and celebrates LGBTQ people and who they love.”
Oliver said the graffiti was spray-painted over a message about the passage of Amendment 4. That message read: “1.4 million can’t vote due to a prior felony. Vote yes on Amendment 4.”
Oliver has since changed the messaging on that side of the sign to read “Love always wins!”
The pastor, who is not gay, also put rainbow colored hearts on the other side of the homophobic graffiti that’s going to be left up until a new sign is delivered next week.
“We wanted to surround that message of hate and homophobia with a message of love,” said Oliver. “Also, send another message to the vandalizer on the other side of our sign that if they should be caught and arrested that we would be fighting for their rights to be restored.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman showed his support for the church on Facebook.
“This shows that we still have work to do, and why we fight every single day to create a climate of inclusion.” Kriseman said. He added the hateful graffiti was very disappointing to see in a city that prides itself on welcoming everyone.
“While we’re a welcoming community, that’s not what we welcome,” he said. “People who think that way, who are intolerant, who don’t have room for everyone, go somewhere else. ‘Cause this isn’t the place you want to live, anyway.”
Oliver said they previously raised money for a new sign when a vandal threw a large rock that knocked it over in July. Surveillance cameras will be installed before that new sign goes up, and Oliver said he won’t be intimidated by any vandal.
“We’re called as followers of Jesus to stand with those who are being marginalized and oppressed,” he said. “So something like this doesn’t deter us at all. It just makes us even stronger advocates.”
St. Petersburg Police said an officer has taken a report and they’re investigating the crime.