A Hate Crime Story

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Once our church facility opens up again and you return to campus you will discover that during this time when we have moved our ministry to a virtual format, we have added security cameras to our physical plant.  In the past year we have had a couple incidents that precipitated this decision.  As members of this church family you have a right to know what has happened.

We have always had many people visit our church.  It is a beautiful building with lovely grounds.  However, this winter we saw an uptick of people coming to our campus who appeared to be scoping out the facility.  One man in particular took photos of all entrances into the sanctuary and when engaged in conversation shared his opinion that our church is part of the “Illuminati.”  We also had a rage-filled voicemail that was deemed a “hate crime” by the police.  The caller was angry about our church’s inclusion of all sexual orientations.  Then, after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the California Council of Churches encouraged progressive churches who display support for racial justice on their building to have staff work remotely during the week of the presidential inauguration. We were told that this suggestion was based on credible threats.

These incidents led us to feel that cameras should be added for the safety of our congregation, staff and HeadStart children.  We thank the Property Commission for responding so quickly to make this possible.  A Security Task Team was formed and meets regularly to address safety, with a desire to not sacrifice welcome or hospitality.

Regarding the Hate Crime, we made the decision to ask that the case not be turned over to the District Attorney, but instead to ask the police to warn the caller.  The caller admitted to the Detective that he made the call.  The caller identified himself as a Christian man who was disgusted by our church’s message of welcome.  He felt it was his First Amendment Right to leave us that message.  The Detective informed him that it was actually classified as a Hate Crime.  The law enforcement officer told the man that the leadership of the La Verne Church of the Brethren had lived out our faith by warning him rather than asking for him to be prosecuted. In other words we were the ones who had continued the work and love of Jesus. The caller asked the Detective to pass on his gratitude to the La Verne Church of the Brethren for that decision.

When the Detective told me that story, I was so moved by the Detective’s understanding that we had lived out our conviction to follow Jesus.  In this time of polarization and hateful rhetoric, we want to keep our community safe from those who might mean us harm.  At the same time, we want the La Verne Church of the Brethren to be a place of faithfulness, welcome, belonging and transformation.