Pride flag burning at church in Sparta, New Jersey probed as crime of bias
SPARTA — A month after an LGBTQ pride rainbow flag was burned outside a church, another local pastor has expressed concern over a community backlash to what is seen as an incident of bias.
The incident at Sparta United Methodist Church was discovered on Jan. 2 by two parish members and reported to the police department on Jan. 8, according to Sparta Police.
CCTV shows a vehicle arriving on church property at 10 p.m. the day before and someone lighting the flag on fire, the church pastor told police.
The video, however, was unclear and neither the person nor the vehicle could be identified, police said.
The church has consistently flown the Pride Flag since 2019, when Reverend Pastor Steven Bechtold was named to the church, as reported by the New Jersey Herald – and sometimes before that, parishioners voted to join the network ministries of reconciliation.
“There’s a hurtful feeling about someone deliberately coming onto the property,” Bechtold said in the Herald report.
Reconciliation Ministries are churches, Sunday School classes, youth groups, regional groups, campus ministries, colleges, and many others who have made the “LGBTQ Justice Reconciliation Pledge intersectional”.
Of the network of more than 1,300, about two dozen are in New Jersey.
Support from another congregation
“The continued damage to the Pride Flag and the reaction of some members of the community to this damage is very concerning,” Sophia Inclusive Community Pastor Michael Corso said in an open letter published Wednesday by TapInto.
Sophia Inclusive Community is rooted in Catholicism, but presents itself as an alternative community with an adapted liturgy.
“I hope the publicity will help raise awareness and allow for a teachable moment where people stop and pause and examine what they think, feel, believe and do in regards to ‘the other’,” especially those in the LGBTQIA community,” Corso also said.
Where Everyone Knows Your Name: NJ’s Friendliest Bars
2021 NJ Property Taxes: See How Your City Compares
Update: Arrests in New Jersey during US Capitol riot on January 6
A year later, more than 20 people from New Jersey were charged with participating in the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol.