News

Rainbow flag stolen three times from Menlo Park church

 

When the Rev. Gia Hayes-Martin arrived at the Menlo Park church she leads on Aug. 10 for a funeral, she was disappointed to find that the gay pride rainbow flag the church displays on its front sign was gone.

Just days prior, officials at St. Bede's Episcopal Church had replaced another rainbow flag that had been stolen from the same spot a couple of weeks before the second theft, said Hayes-Martin, the church's rector.

St. Bede's, located at 2650 Sand Hill Road, has replaced three rainbow flags, hung to support the LGBTQ community, since 2016, but two in the last month, she said.

Hayes-Martin said she was moved to give a sermon about the thefts during an Aug. 18 church service, addressing whoever took the flags directly as "neighbor."

"Neighbor, I hope you will leave our flag alone in the future," she said in the sermon. "If you steal it again, we'll put another one up. All you're doing is increasing the sales of rainbow flags."

A threatening act

One parishioner, who asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety in an environment of apparent animosity felt by least one person in the community, said he feels threatened by the thefts.

"I'm gay and I've fought my whole life to be visible," the parishioner said. "Something like this (the flag thefts) triggers my deep-seated fears of being hated for who I love and how I love."

There are no clues as to why the individual, or individuals, took the pride flags, Hayes-Martin said. The church would like to "believe it's a kid who likes rainbows and wants to make a tent with our rainbow flag and no malice is intended." But, she notes, hate crimes have risen against LGBTQ people in recent years.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation bias reported to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. rose from 1,178 in 2014 to 1,303 in 2017, according to FBI data released in November 2018. The U.S. Census Bureau's National Crime Victimization Survey suggests that the number of hate crimes nationwide, in general -- not only those based on sexual orientation bias -- is larger. There were 45,600 hate crimes on average annually between 2013 and 2017, compared with the FBI's estimate of about 7,500 annually.

Seeking understanding

Meanwhile, Hayes-Martin said, church officials would welcome the "neighbor" to meet with them.

"It's OK to disagree, but we prefer they (whoever took the flags) come and talk to us," she told The Almanac. "Allow this disagreement to be manifested in a relationship instead of something that probably happens in the dark of night when nobody knows it happened."

In her sermon, she said: "We will seek to understand you and where you're coming from. We'll share with you where we're coming from, not to change your mind or make you feel guilty but so you can understand us. ... The world is locked in conflict right now; opposing sides barely know how to talk to each other anymore. We think we have something to teach people about how to disagree. We would like to share our way of disagreeing while remaining in a relationship with you."

In addition to the flags, the church also replaced the flagpole used to affix the flag to its front sign because the pole was stolen recently as well, Hayes-Martin said. Aside from the three flag thefts, officials also found the flag torn down, tucked behind the sign, the parishioner said.

The church's 10-member governing board passed a resolution during the summer of 2016 to hang a gay pride flag at the church after a mass shooter killed 49 people at Pulse Nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Hayes-Martin said. The church has supported LBGTQ people for 15 to 20 years, but decided it needed to explicitly affirm it was a safe place for LBGTQ people, she said. The church also flies an American flag in its courtyard.

"We fly that flag (the rainbow flag) because we've come to believe over many, many years that the arms of Jesus extend to everybody, and all people really means all," Hayes-Martin said. "It reminds our parish of who we are and encourages them to reach out to people who are different and say 'Jesus loves you as well.' The way we navigate as Christians is to treat everyone with respect and kindness."

Church officials reported the latest theft to the Menlo Park Police Department on Aug. 10, said police spokesperson Nicole Acker in a Sept. 3 email. There are no leads in the case, she said, and she hasn't heard of any similar incidents in Menlo Park.

The church does not have security cameras, but officials were concerned that cameras would be expensive to install, Hayes-Martin said. The church's sign where the flag is flown is along a wide corner, she said, so the church would probably have to buy multiple cameras to capture the area.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by MAGA
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 4, 2019 at 2:33 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


14 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 4, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Make America great again by stealing from a church. Trump logic...


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 4, 2019 at 3:09 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


16 people like this
Posted by Sharpie'd Weather Map
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm

He'll get Mexico to pay for the Rainbow Flag.


73 people like this
Posted by Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2019 at 6:37 pm

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, I want to express our gratitude to St. Bede's for its faithful persistence, and our dismay that such a warm Christian message has been met with vandalism.

The necessity for churches that welcome all, including LGBTQA folks, is never so clear as at moments like this. We are called to create a better world and it's an honor to share that calling with our Episcopal kindred up the road. Whatever we can do to support you, let us know!

Blessings!


10 people like this
Posted by wwjd with our village?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2019 at 8:25 pm

wwjd, y'all?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2019 at 8:29 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"wwjd, y'all?"

Turn the other cheek.


24 people like this
Posted by Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman is a registered user.

On behalf of First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, UCC, a church which also enthusiastically welcomes and affirms our LGBTQ+ neighbors, I wish to express our solidarity with St. Bede's. Thank you for your faithful witness to God's radically inclusive welcome to all. Feel free to call on us for support and encouragement.


5 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:12 pm

I hope St. Bede’s recovers their rainbow flag(s).

[Portion removed; off topic]


2 people like this
Posted by Cameras and eyeballs now
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:40 pm

We'll catch the person doing this. Just a matter of time now.


32 people like this
Posted by Pray for them
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2019 at 2:24 pm

What kind of broken person does this? They need fixing.
So sad. I hope he finds love and tolerance within the light of the Lord.

One walk in the light of the Lord and he would be buying them a new flag and sobbing apologetically.
Miracles happen! Pray for the person who did this.


4 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2019 at 6:26 pm

pearl is a registered user.

[Off-topic post removed]


40 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm

It always warms my heart to drive by the rainbow flag on St. Bede's sign.


7 people like this
Posted by Alisa
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:41 am

I am a conservative Christian living in Silicon Valley and fully empathize with the gay man fighting for acceptance and visibility. As a Christian, I am not allowed to have Biblical Christian values in this area without appearing bigoted, homophobic, transphobic - everything phobic and yet the people of St. Bede’s would most likely welcome Jesus, whom I follow, into their midst. I do not condone or support theft and am sorry this happened.


8 people like this
Posted by Sharpie'd Weather Map
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:06 am

> As a Christian, I am not allowed to have Biblical Christian values in this area...

Odd. Of all the repression and oppression in our area, I've never felt that, nor seen it.

I'm so sorry you feel that way. I was unaware of the local repression of Christians. In California. In America.

Perhaps Christians should meet weekly. Make a plan. Carry whistles. For example, when gays were being physically assaulted and murdered for their lifestyle ("f**-bashing" being quite common back in the day) one of the things they did was carry whistles to alert neighbors for help.

Yes, buy a whistle to prevent the beatings of Christians. There may be more tactics you can think of.

I am so sorry you have to suffer through this.


3 people like this
Posted by Alisa
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:47 am

Thank you Sharpie’d for the validation.


75 people like this
Posted by Proud Christian
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 10:23 am

"I am not allowed to have Biblical Christian values in this area..."

I've been active in my church community for decades and I've never felt this way.
From my experiences, nobody is prohibited from expressing love and caring for all our fellow humans. Well, maybe when they stopped us from handing out food to the homeless in parks, but that got resolved.

If you incorrectly interpret Christian values as wanting discrimination against or working against certain groups of people's quest for equality under civil law simply because of who they love, that's an issue with your interpretation of Christianity, not with actual Christian Values. Also, Christian Values do not encourage theft of a symbol of unity because you oppose that unity.
Walk with the Lord and listen to him. He's about inclusive love, not exclusion.


20 people like this
Posted by Kristi Iverson
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2019 at 10:47 am

As the social justice committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA), we were dismayed to read in The Almanac on September 4 that St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park has three times been victimized by the theft of their LGBTQ flag and damage to their flagpole. We hereby express our solidarity with St. Bede’s and with LGTBQ people in their congregation and in the wider community. In these times of domestic and international conflict and emotional rhetoric, we cannot stay silent when such things happen. Such vandalism indicates that even here in the Bay Area there are deep divisions which need to be acknowledged. Rev. Gia Hayes-Martin, the Rector of St. Bede's, has invited people with opposing views to enter into a dialog. It is our hope and prayer that those who disagree will choose to engage in this way. Let us resolve to stand with all who seek a better world through peaceful means.

UUCPA Action Council


6 people like this
Posted by Sharpie'd Weather Map
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:31 am

> Thank you Sharpie’d for the validation.

Alisa - you are welcome. I'm happy to help. We can all work together to keep you safe from the bigotry and hatred you feel you've experienced as a Christian.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

I'm sure someone can donate their game camera for a few weeks to identify the thief.
Anyone?


20 people like this
Posted by ZB
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2019 at 2:29 pm

ZB is a registered user.

I love to see rainbow flags outside of churches and other public building. So sorry this has happened.


1 person likes this
Posted by Another Christian
a resident of Woodside High School
on Sep 8, 2019 at 12:20 am

Proud Christian creates a wonderful red herring, but does little to address Alisa’s point, which is that in Silicon Valley, traditional Christian (or indeed Muslim, or Jewish) values are portrayed as “hateful”. Proud Christian does a disservice to all Christians by portraying “Christian Values” as being a fixed and unanimously-agreed concept among all Christians. Of course this is not the case (consider the decades-long debates around abortion and the death penalty). Proud Christian would be wise to keep in mind Proverbs 16:18, which has cautionary advice for the overly proud.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharpie'd Weather Map
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 8, 2019 at 8:34 am

> traditional Christian (or indeed Muslim, or Jewish) values are portrayed as “hateful”

Other than the two mentioned, what values of yours are commonly portrayed as “hateful”?

> Proud Christian would be wise...

We are so lucky to have your wise counsel - and you to tell us of such.

I'm a fan of Proverbs 16:5, myself. Proverbs 3:34 sums it up nicely, as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Vegan Terrorists
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2019 at 5:52 pm

I get more oppression from vegans than I ever got for my devout beliefs.

Nor has anyone in my church been mocked or belittled.


Like this comment
Posted by cubist
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2019 at 4:00 pm

I must admit I'm curious as to *exactly which* "Biblical Christian values" Alisa feels they are "not allowed to have", on pain of "appearing… everything phobic". While it's true that the Bible says that Christians will be persecuted for what they do in Jesus' name, it is, equally true, that Christians who behave like jerks will be "persecuted" for their jerk-like behavior, and that that jerk-like behavior has nothing at all to do with their Christian faith.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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