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latest news Toluca Lake Church Reports Hate Crime After Pride Banner Cut

An LGBTQ+ pride banner that hung outside a church in Toluca Lake was found cut Wednesday morning, marking one of the last examples of pride symbols being targeted for vandalism across the country.

Harmony Toluca Lake, a campus of The United Methodist Church in Hollywood, has displayed a Pride banner every Pride month for the past seven years it has been there, Pastor Mark Stephenson said. This is the first year something has happened to the banner since he became a pastor of the church.

Stephenson learned the banner had been damaged when a neighbor texted her a photo and said how upset she was. He said he would report the incident to police on Thursday as a hate crime.

Church staff said they were also disappointed to see the hate aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. It is one of a string of vandalism incidents targeting pride banners and symbols that have been documented across the country in recent weeks.

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

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 tearing down a rainbow flag at someone’s home. On Tuesday in Tempe, Arizona, a Pride flag was removed from a flagpole outside City Hall and burned, according to BNC News.

Stephenson said the church’s cut-out banner would remain in place until their Sunday service, then it would be taped up and repaired, and if that didn’t work, the church would replace it with a new banner.

“I think it’s important for neighbors, as well as our faith community, to understand that we are sensitive to biases and prejudices of others,” he said. “But I want to send a signal that we’re not going to let hate win, that love eventually wins.”

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