A sign welcoming the LGBTQ community to a Thousand Oaks church was vandalized Sunday night, police and church members said.
Police are investigating the incident to determine if it qualifies as a hate crime, Thousand Oaks Police Chief Jeremy Paris said Monday.
The rainbow colored, heart-shaped metallic emblem was part of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church’s larger sign, which includes its phone number and website address. The LGBTQ part was found Monday morning inside the larger sign, apparently kicked in.
Church member Brian Carr said the rainbow part was retrieved from inside the larger sign and was being taken by him to the sign’s manufacturer to be repaired.
Carr, 65, said the church is welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
“Everybody can come here,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. But we purposely welcome those people because a lot of churches won’t.”
Church officials weren’t immediately available for comment Monday but reported the incident to police, Paris said.
“Whether it’s a hate crime is one of the things we’ll look at on something like this because the symbol is supportive of the LBGTQ community,” he said. “We’ll look at what the motivation is. But it’s too early to determine that now.”
Thousand Oaks contracts with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for police services.
Andrew Goetze, 71, of Thousand Oaks, isn’t a member of the church, but dropped by Monday to examine the vandalism.
“It’s sad,” the retiree said, standing on the church’s front lawn. “I mean there have been a few of these incidents here recently and it’s just disconcerting.”
He cited two white supremacist “banner drops” over Highway 101 in Newbury Park in February and March and graffiti found in late May on the wall of Newbury Park’s Maple Elementary School.
Mark McLaughlin, Conejo Valley Unified School District superintendent, described the school graffiti as “hateful speech.”
Julie Clark, 67, who was with Goetze, said the incident was puzzling.
“Because Holy Trinity hasn’t really been in the media and hasn’t been controversial,” the community educator said. “They do give a lot of social services.”
In reaction to the vandalism incident at the church, another rainbow-colored LGBTQ sign was placed on the church’s front lawn by somebody.
The back of it read, “all are welcome here. You are loved. You are valid. You matter. #Lovearmy.”
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at email@example.com or 805-437-0323.
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This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: LGBTQ welcome sign at Thousand Oaks church vandalized