Just after Donald Trump won the election in November, an Episcopal church in Bean Blossom, Indiana, was supposedly vandalized with graffiti that included a swastika, homophobic language, and the words “Heil Trump.” The incident generated widespread media coverage and liberal comment at the time.
In Brown County, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom is known to affirm homosexual relationships and solemnize homosexual marriages. At the time, the news was reported by the Washington Post and other media that the graffiti typified other such supposed manifestations of hatred inspired by the Trump election.
However, the hate-filled graffiti turned out to have a different motivation than that attributed by the media. On Wednesday, Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams filed a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief against George Nathaniel "Nathan" Stang, 26, Bloomington. Stang, who is the church organist, is accused of vandalizing the church.
Stang told IndyStar.com that he is homosexual. He claims that he did not vandalize the church because of hatred but out of an attempt to influence people after Trump’s electoral victory. He told the news outlet, "Over the course of that week, I was fearful, scared and alone, too, in my fear." He added, "I guess one of the driving factors behind me committing the act was that I wanted other people to be scared with me."
Apparently chagrined by his actions, Stang said that he realizes the error of his ways. "I'm very sad to have created more hate in a world that already has too much hate," Stang said. "The congregation doesn't deserve it, the emotional turmoil I put them through."
A spokesman for Trump’s campaign said that he had never before witnessed the level of hatred coming from Trump’s opponents. Rex Early told IndyStar.com, “You know, we’ve always had a winner and a loser, and after the votes are counted, if you don't like it, he's still president." St. David’s has an average Sunday attendance of about 47 people. It is located in Brown County, where local voters went Republican in November. Trump garnered 5,015 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 2,518.
In a statement to police, Stang told detectives that he scrawled the graffiti on his own church because he felt alone. "To be clear, my actions were not motivated by hate for the church or its congregation." Stang wrote, "I suppose I wanted to give local people a reason to fight for good even if it was a false flag. I of course realize now that this was NOT the way to go about inspiring activism."
It was on November 13, 2016, that police were called to the church when Rev. Kelsey Hutto, St. David’s pastor, called to say that Stang had called to say that the church was vandalized. Hutto told the police the church practices gay marriage. Early on, police suspected that the vandal was associated with St. David’s because it is not immediately obvious that the church is supportive of same-sex marriage. When police conducted a "tower dump" of cellphones in the area and discovered that Stang’s cell phone had been in the area even though he lives in Bloomington.
Stang eventually admitted to police that he was responsible for responsible for spray-painting the church, claiming that he sought to "mobilize a movement," but did not think that doing so would generate so much media attention.
In a statement on the parish Facebook page, Hutto wrote, "Nathan is a member of our St. David's family and naturally there is a certain amount of betrayal with this act."
"Over the coming weeks and days we will process our emotions regarding this hurtful act," Hutto said.
Stang believes that he can no longer serve as organist at St. David’s
When the news of the vandalism broke, the Washington Post reported that Hutto said, “We’re proud of being targeted for the reason that we were targeted for, at least in which we think we were targeted for, which is being inclusive.” It was thus that Hutto decided to keep the graffiti in place for several weeks.
“We believe that symbols are what you make of them,” Hutto said. “And so we’ve decided to leave them up as symbols of hope, whereas if anybody in the surrounding area — or even country — sees these and knows that we were targeted because we’re inclusive and they need a safe space, then they know that Saint David’s is a safe space.”
The Washington Post
noted several instances of supposed bigotry committed in the wake of the election. The paper cited an accusation by a black female student at Baylor University in Texas who claimed a white male said to her “No n—–s allowed on the sidewalk,” and “I’m just trying to make America great again.” Baylor University police suspended the investigation in December after just one month. Student Natasha Nkhama claimed that a white student bumped into her and that another student came to her aid.
An instance of bigotry cited by the paper involved a female Muslim student at the University of Michigan who claimed have been approached by a male stranger in November who threatened to set her on fire if she did not remove her hijab. This accusation proved to be false.
Spero News has reported on several instances of hoaxes
in which hate crimes
and graffiti in Michigan
, which has a large Muslim population, were attributed to supporters of President Trump.