BOSTON - The first Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain was vandalized Thursday morning with anti-LGBTQ+ language spray painted on the side of the building.
The Boston Police Department's Civil Rights Unit is investigating the incident.
"The transformative power of God is that it can redeem all of us from fear and hate," said Pastor Ben Herrmann alongside Pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird who is preaching love, after learning hate was tagged on the church's wall.
"It's very disconcerting to see this kind of message of hate," said Wiest-Laird.
Faith leaders noticed the graffiti right away, calling police to investigate.
"This is an officer from the civil crimes, civil rights unit. It is important for us to report this and to make sure people know that it does exist, even in Boston," said Wiest-Laird.
As detectives collected evidence and photographed the vandalism, a growing crowd of parishioners gathered to support the congregation.
"I was angry that someone under the darkeness of night with no courage would come and say such a thing," said church moderator Linda Karpeichik.
The news of the possible hate crime traveled fast. Pediatrician Dr. Scott Hadland, included in Boston's "Portrait of Pride" event honoring LGBTQ+ community members, was shocked to learn his church where he takes his family was targeted by hate.
"Although I feel safe and welcomed in Boston, this is a reminder that we can't let down our guard," said Hadland.
Parishioners watched as the hate was covered up with a tarp, the words soon to be painted over, but they've already left their mark and left the community with questions. Who is responsible and why did they do it?
"It makes me sad, obviously, for everyone who identifies or allies with the LGBTQ community, who are targeted this way. It makes me feel in my softer moments really sad for the person who posted this that they obviously don't have very much love in their life, I mean this message is pretty much antithetical to what we believe in this church. We believe that God does love you," said Wiest-Laird.
Just this week, theannounced a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people as threats continue to increase nationwide.
WBZ did reach out to Boston PD regarding possible suspects. We did not immediately hear back.
"This dangerous, hurtful messaging is an instant reminder of the hatred within too many hearts in our city and cities across the nation. We will do everything possible to protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Boston and Suffolk County. But our efforts must be supported by national leaders in both parties speaking in unison against these insidious impulses in our society," Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden said in a statement.
"These disgusting acts of vandalism will not deter us from celebrating our LGBTQ+ residents this month, this weekend, and every day here in Boston. Hate has no place in our city. As we look forward to the return of the Pride Parade this weekend, we stand with Boston's LGBTQ+ community and remain committed to ensuring that community members are safe and supported. We will not be intimidated in our work to make Boston a city for everyone," Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement.
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