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Leaders at Chicago Unitarian church say they won't be intimidated after Pride flag is burned

Vandals burn Pride flag outside Chicago's Beverly Unitarian Church
Vandals burn Pride flag outside Chicago's Beverly Unitarian Church 02:41

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An LGBTQ+ Pride flag was set on fire and destroyed outside a Beverly neighborhood church this week, and members of the church have no idea why they are being targeted near Pride Month.

Just 10 days ago, the Beverly Unitarian Church, 10244 S. Longwood Dr., held a huge LGBTQ+ Pride event on its grounds for the first time in its history. With the Pride flag having been burned in what might have been backlash, the congregation wants whoever was responsible to know that the act only empowers members.

The Beverly Unitarian Church is located in the historic Givins Beverly Castle, which dates back to 1886. Its members believe strongly in their values.

"We are about fairness, equity," said Beth O'Grady, chair of the church board of trustees.

Yet this week, someone brought hate to the church's front lawn. The grass near where the flag had flown was also burned, and Patrick Singler, director of The Beverly Castle Preschool at the church, believes the flag was set ablaze right there on church property.

"Really, I didn't at first know what it was," Singler said.

But the reality soon set in for Singler, who stumbled upon the burned flag when he came to work.

"I was completely shocked," he said. "I was wondering, I'm like—I think that they burned this flag. Did someone burn this flag?"

During June Pride Month, the church placed a Pride flag and the colors supporting the LGBTQ+ community out front. In the overnight hours, someone decided to send a message.

"Some people were mad, really angry," said O'Grady. "I think I was just sad."

O'Grady was saddened to see hate at a place of acceptance.

"People are so small-minded," she said.

The church held its first Pride event at the start of the month. More than 100 people attended.

Members wondered if that brought the unwanted attention.

"When there is hate put on you, you reply with love," O'Grady said.

The church faced similar adversity a few years back when a Black Lives Matter sign was set up on historic Longwood Drive.

"The church actually received death threats, so the sign did come down for a while—but it's back up," said O'Grady.

The church persevered through the controversy and is doing the same thing now.

Even more Pride colors were put up to decorate the church's exterior—in an indication that Beverly Unitarian Church will not be intimidated.

"We are not going away. Our beliefs are not going away. Our trust in people is going away," said O'Grady. "There to stay."

The church did file a report with 311 and reports with the Chicago Police Department. Church leaders are thankful the flames that destroyed the flag did not spread to the historic castle as well.

To further show it is not backing down, the church is also holding a second Pride event at the end of the month in light of the incident.

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