Arkansas Church Threatened For LGBT Support, Windows Shot Out
A letter to the editor of the local newspaper in Mountain Home, Ark., appears to have inspired a crudely written threat to the church’s leaders, according to local blog reports and the church’s Facebook page, and may have inspired an attack on the church itself.
Windows of the church were shot out, according to the WWJTD blog at Patheos, which was the first to report on the incident on Wednesday. (It did not specify how many windows were shot.) Someone also left a threatening note, written in all capital letters, and with multiple misspellings, including “socialist,” which somehow came out “scholiast”:
Mr. Billy Bob
Hello from your neighbors
You filthy white trash scum-billy!
Why don’t you move to Ferguson, MO.
Or Chi-Congo, IL. Since you like n------ and queers so well.
And you idolize the n----- commie, Muslin, scholiast destroying the USA
He’s the worst garbage to ever occupy the White House bar none.
See how long your white trash ass would last among them.
You brain dead bastard.
Just remember, we true Southerners know where you live a------!
According to both that blog and the Arkansas Blog, the letter and the vandalism appear to have been a response to a letter to the editor published in the local newspaper, the Baxter Bulletin, in June, announcing that the congregation welcomed people of all backgrounds, including their LGBT neighbors:
From Alice Hurley, Minister,
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mountain Home:
While the Arkansas Supreme Court considers their position on same-sex marriage, let's take a moment to reflect on the importance of the separation of state and church. Arkansas state, as a representation of all people contained within its boundaries, cannot dictate the conduct of a church or fellowship of any religion or philosophy. It has a responsibility to ensure all citizens are treated equally under the law. Conversely, individuals and private organizations, religious or otherwise, do have the right of discrimination.
Once the state ensures everyone is represented equally, then individuals are free to choose, within the bounds of law, whom they befriend and what organizations hold their loyalty or membership. Individuals can be open to learning about different people and cultures, choosing to be inclusive and tolerant of their neighbors in a community, or they can choose to be insular and discriminatory.
We at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mountain Home choose not to discriminate. Our Fellowship Hall is open to all truth-seekers, regardless of race or sexual orientation. Please feel free to visit our fellowship and consider becoming part of our family. We respect the right of people to choose their marriage partners for themselves, and are happy to perform, for members or non-members, commitment ceremonies and same-sex marriages, as soon as the state of Arkansas realizes it cannot discriminate and must ensure that all of its citizens are equal under the law.
The Arkansas Blog reports that some of the church’s windows appear to have been shot with a pellet gun, and the church leaders – including Hurley, the author of the letter, and Bill Rhodes, the president of the congregation and the person to whom the letter was sent two weeks ago – were uncertain whether the vandalism was connected to the letter, since the church is located near a busy intersection.
“I think it was just somebody blowing off steam," Hurley told the blog, adding that she’d like to get in touch with the writer of the anonymous note. "I'd arrange for him to have five to ten minutes of time to speak at our service Sunday. We'd be happy to listen to him. I won't say we'd agree with him, but we'll listen."
Mountain Home is noted for having once been a “sundown town," a city that once had a sign warning blacks – often with racist slurs -- that they were not permitted to be within the town limits after sundown.
According to James Loewen’s survey of such towns, Mountain Home had a such a sign near the town entrance well into the 1940s, and the reputation has remained intact; indeed, today, the racial makeup of both Mountain Home and Baxter County is over 97 percent white.