A rainbow pride banner that was torn down in front of the Church-in-the-Gardens in Forest Hills on June 4 will be replaced today with a similar new banner in honor of Pride Month, according to Reverend Fred Weidmann.
The previous banner with the phrase “A Just World for All” was from the church’s denomination called the United Church of Christ. The banner was hung above the entryway of the church on June 2. Two days later when Weidman came to church, he noticed that the banner was gone.
“We walked around the church and we found it nicely rolled up and placed by one of our doors,” Weidmann said.
After listening to a voice message from a neighbor who found the banner, Weidmann learned that it was stuffed inside a garbage can by the corner near the church steps.
Following the incident, Weidmann said they’re confident that the banner was torn down between the hours of 4:30 p.m., when the custodian left the church, and 7:30 p.m. that same day, when a neighbor found the banner.
“We don’t have a security camera on that particular door, and we haven’t heard from any eyewitnesses, just the one neighbor who found it,” Weidmann said.
As of June 10, there are no updates on the case and the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident, according to police.
Since the banner was trashed, residents and faith leaders in the community have reached out to Weidmann in support of hanging up the banner.
While the incident generated a lot of social media attention with positive comments, Weidmann said there were some “vicious” statements made against LGBTQ people that made him feel terrible.
On Facebook, one resident wrote, “A terrible action that clearly does not reflect the sentiments of our community.”
Another wrote, “That’s disgusting!”
Meanwhile, others commented saying they weren’t surprised that the banner was torn down.
“Based on the shockingly hostile comments from THIS group to the posts showing the rainbow flag hung on the church, sadly, the vandalism is FAR from surprising,” one resident wrote.
Another said, “This is awful, but not surprising … I hope they put another 10x the size!!!”
Weidmann said he would be happy to have an open dialogue with people, including the person who tore down the banner.
Weidmann, who became a minister three months ago, said the reason the church wanted to hang the banner was to make sure that LGBTQ siblings know that they’re welcomed there.
“Unfortunately, we live in a country where many churches say they are welcome, but they don’t mean it. We mean it here,” Weidmann said.
Weidmann said he is thankful to the neighbors, the NYPD and the community that has been supportive of the church.
Local elected officials such as Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilwoman Lynn Schulman issued a joint statement saying they’re “proud to represent a community that celebrates all of our LGBTQ+ neighbors — who make up our elected representatives, community leaders, advocates, friends and people from all walks of life.”
“This was a display of cowardice and a reminder that we cannot let up in the fight for equality. We thank the Church-in-the-Gardens and 112th Precinct for their response — and look forward to continuing celebrating Pride this month and every day thereafter,” the lawmakers said.