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Church defaced with gay slur in Wyoming, possible hate crime

Photo credit:
Trinity Episcopal Church

Just as Matthew Shepard's remains were laid to rest at an Episcopal church in Washington this past Friday, the Trinity Episcopal Church in Lander, WY was defaced with homophobic speech. The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming released an announcement in which they called the incident "a possible hate crime."

Along with the phrase "False hope fags" there were drawings of male genitalia and the words “Lies” and “Fake." There was also a face with the eyes crossed out and the word "run" beneath it according to The Star Tribune

“As Bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming, I personally abhor this act and pray that those responsible will be held accountable and have their hearts changed,” the Right Rev. John S. Smylie, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, said in the announcement. “I appeal to the people of the State of Wyoming to stand with and to pray for those targeted in the Lander community."

Co-Rector, Rev. Walt Seeley of the Trinity Episcopal Church addressed the graffiti on the church's Facebook page

"We live in a difficult time and when hate rears it’s ugly head, like it did when our Church property was vandalized with homophobic graffiti, it makes me sad, disappointed and if I’m honest, angry. I stand with all who are marginalized in our society, whether it is our LGBTQ brothers and sisters or anyone else who is made to feel like an outsider."

Twenty years ago this month Matthew Shepard died in a hospital after being found beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie Wyoming. His remains were interred at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday in a huge public ceremony. 

Communication coordinator for the diocese, Bobbe Fitzhugh, said there is no reason to believe the incidents are related. 

Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde who presided over Shepard's service said earlier this month even though the Episcopal Church doesn't always universally accept LGBT people it has since changed its way of thinking. 

“We believe that the spirit of God was really changing our understanding, and it happened. And we are a very different place as a church. Not everywhere, but the official teachings of the church have changed.”

Rev. Seeley wrote of Facebook that God loves the vandal and that they are forgiven. "What you did is absolutely wrong. Hate is never right and is never justified. I hope you begin to see what you did is wrong and come forward, admit it, make it right and move on to live your life more productively and most importantly, without hate. I hope and pray you come to know the God who loves you unconditionally."'

Despite the tragedy and death of Mathew Shepard, the state of Wyoming does not have a law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity