A church in Massachusetts was vandalized with pro-LGBTQ graffiti last week after church members removed Pride flags that were placed on the property by an openly gay couple renting its facility to run a preschool.
Pleasant Street Preschool, which had been renting space at Grace Community Church in Marblehead, is run by Mike Richmond and his partner Ryan Thompson, who placed Pride flags on the property to celebrate Pride month, according to local Marblehead Current.
Richmond posted a video to Instagram last Wednesday of the church member taking down the flags, who explained she was doing so “because it’s a church that does not celebrate — you can have your time, but we don’t want to celebrate it if we don’t have to.”
“We’re also a church that believes in the Bible,” the woman added. “We have the freedom to do both things.”
“As a gay person who runs a business there, I simply wanted representation and to display this symbol of peace, love and acceptance,” Richmond wrote in the post. “I never discussed Pride, the flags or what it means to be gay with the children. They noticed them on the way to the park and thought they were pretty.”
“I’m so beyond sad and frustrated. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to have to go there every day now and try to remain composed and run a normal day for the kids,” he also said.
When Richmond arrived at the church last Friday, he reportedly discovered it had been defaced with spray-painted graffiti of a rainbow, as well as “Stay Gay, Stay Hard” and “Love is 4 everyone.” Richmond told Marblehead Current he called the police immediately and that he does not condone such behavior.
“I never would do this and never asked anyone to,” he told the outlet. “I don’t know who did it, but regardless we need to rise above and take a better approach than letting rage lead to retaliation.”
“The content of the graffiti most likely is in support of the LGBTQ+ community,” Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King said in a statement, adding that “vandalism will not be tolerated, and those responsible for this act, or any future acts, will be held accountable if identified.”
The Marblehead Pride Committee also condemned the act, and agreed to pay for and clean up the vandalism, according to police.
Richmond has also accused the church of homophobia, claiming it as the “real reason” the church ended his lease in March effective August. According to the Marblehead Current, the church extended the lease until August 2024 after Richmond said families had already enrolled for next year, but he decided to shutter the school immediately because he and the families “do not feel safe continuing to run the school there.”
“That is a false narrative,” the church told the outlet. “We as a church do not ever want anyone to feel disrespected. The church board was aware that the business owners were gay when we recently extended their lease.”
The alleged eviction prompted a protest outside the church Sunday, which the local outlet estimated to have had approximately 150 in attendance. Richmond claimed the protest is “only the beginning of the battle against intolerance and injustice,” and said Marblehead needed to “face the uncomfortable truth about the underlying bigotry in the heart of this town.”
The elders of Grace Community released a statement on their website explaining their side of the story, and told Fox News Digital that daycare was never under eviction, and they “are striving to show God’s abundant grace in this matter and hope to continue serving the Marblehead community for generations to come.”
“We are a politically and culturally diverse congregation. For this reason, we do not put signage for many things, even good things, on the church front,” Grace Community Church told Marblehead Current. “We generally steer clear of any displays that may be interpreted as political. As a church, and as a landlord, that is our right. Civil liberties also apply to churches, and means we must extend respect in all directions.”