Not long after the 2016 elections, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Indiana was vandalized. Someone had spray-painted phrases like “Heil Trump” on the outside walls in what appeared to be a hate crime. The church became emblematic of how conservatives were treating liberals in the wake of Donald Trump‘s election.
Adding to the story was how the church purposely chose not to paint over the graffiti, allowing visitors to see what hate looked like in practice.
For months, however, there was no indication of who committed the crime.
But in a fascinating story from the Washington Post, we learn how police finally figured out the culprit. Part of what tipped them off was the use of an anti-gay slur in one of the hateful messages. That appeared to be a reference to the church’s support of same-sex marriage… but no one in the community even seemed to be aware of that.
The detective [Brian Shrader] had put his finger on what was bothering him: the words “Fag Church.” St. David’s was indeed a beacon of support for gay rights. But the fact had gone all but unnoticed outside the church’s several dozen parishioners.
“I didn’t know that. People in the county didn’t know that. People I work with didn’t know that. Someone ‘down the road,’ so to speak, really would not have known that,” Shrader said. He began to wonder if the hateful graffiti could have been scrawled Saturday night by somebody who planned to sit in the pews Sunday morning.
Pinging phone calls made in the area that night, a detective noticed that the church’s organist, Nathan Stang, had made or received calls… even though he said he had been out of town.
There was a suspect. What was missing was a motive.
The story goes into more details about what happened next, but among the issues were a conflict between Stang (above), who’s gay, and his Trump-supporting mother. Ironically, the fake hate crime actually brought them closer together. While the strained relationship with his mother is hard to read about, hate crime hoaxes make it that much more difficult for real victims to be taken seriously. Let’s hope Stang gets whatever help he needs. At least then, he won’t be inclined to take out his frustrations in destructive ways.