A Charlotte, North Carolina, LGBTQ-friendly church has been vandalized with an anti-LGBTQ message, according to Facebook posts from the church’s pastor, Chris Ayers. On either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, an unknown vandal spray painted the words “Fags are Piedofhiles” (sic) on the rainbow-painted front doors of the church. According to the Charlotte Observer, Wedgewood Church is one of the area’s most well-known LGBTQ-friendly churches.
In a phone interview with INTO, Wedgewood co-pastor Mulu Fairley-Collins said that, while some parishioners are shaken by the graffiti, the “very very queer” congregation is resilient.
“We are an LGBTQIA church in the South,” Fairley-Collins, who identifies as black and queer, told INTO. “We’ve had people deal with situations far worse than graffiti on the church door. We have people are who are fiercely themselves.”
Fairley-Collins said that, as with past vandalism, the church tries to make a positive situation out of a hate-filled one. The church’s leadership team will meet this week to plan an interfaith event where local churches and synagogues will come together to repaint the doors. Fairley-Collins said Wedgewood will “make it clear that we won’t be intimidated and we’ll use this ugliness as a way for people to come together.”
Fairley-Collins was ordained at Wedgedwood in 2012 and has been co-pastor for a year and a half. She said the church has been explicitly LGBTQIA-inclusive for over a decade. The church, she said, also boasts a multi-racial congregation.
The vandalized rainbow door exists only because of targeted vandalism in the past. Fairley-Collins told INTO that the congregation painted the doors rainbow in response to a similar incident in the past. She said that racial slurs have also been graffitied onto the church.
The church currently has a GoFundMe with a goal of $5,000. As of press time, the church had raised over $3,000 toward its goal. With the money, the church plans to repaint the garage with the black and brown pride flag, which originated in Philadelphia as a way to show solidarity with LGBTQ people of color. They will also use the money to get security cameras.
Fairley-Collins did say that there has been a “higher tension” in Charlotte since Trump’s presidential campaign and presidency. She said people have been “unapologetically” vocal about their bigotry. However, it’s not the bigotry that this incident highlights for her.
Fairley-Collins said that the outpouring of support from people of all religions, sexualities, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds would be her takeaway from this experience.
“That’s the kind of stuff we focus on,” she said. “It’s not the viciousness of the acts, but how do we respond to it.”