BALTIMORE — This Pride Month, the pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in South Baltimore wanted to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, putting a small pride flag in the church's garden last week.
"We wanted to be really, really clear that we believe that God loves all of the people that God has created, exactly as they have been created," said Pastor Lauren Muratore. "We put the flag out to just be really clear that this is a safe and welcoming space for people who maybe haven't felt welcome in a church in the past but might like to wonder in."
But Monday between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., the flag was stolen.
"The top of the stake had been ripped off so it was pretty apparent to me that it wasn't blown away," said Muratore. "I'm a pastor, and I still get angry about things, and those quickly, as anger usually does, gave way to hurt and concern for how this would be felt by members of the community."
She said it's not the first time the LGBTQ community has been targeted in the Riverside neighborhood.
"Neighbors just down the street, they had a pride flag out, and they had rocks thrown at their house," said Muratore. "These things, they happen, and I think we can’t think that we are all so progressive and that society has moved so far that we are over this; that there’s no need for pride celebrations; that there’s no need to fly flags. There clearly is, and this is why we do."
So the new plan is to make their message permanent. After posting the crime on social media, several people stepped up to get the church a replacement.
"We have a member who is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan who has ordered flags and sent them to the church because she’s like, 'I wanna do something and this is what I can do'," said Muratore.
The company she ordered the original flag from also offered to overnight a new, bigger flag, free of charge. It now hangs proudly above the front door, drilled into the bricks. Muratore said she didn't choose this permanent solution the first time because the church is going through major renovations and she wanted to wait until they were done to choose a permanent location, but she's not waiting anymore.
"If someone is feeling like they don’t understand how or why a church would be supportive of the queer community, I want to talk about that with them," said Muratore. "Hate and intolerance are rarely silent, which means that love can’t be silent either. Love should be loud."
Because of the outpouring of support, she hopes to give extra flags to nearby businesses to make the whole community's support very visible.