Twenty-six year old George Nathaniel Stang told police he vandalized his own church with anti-gay, racist, and pro-Trump graffiti because the election made him feel scared and angry, and alleged his goal was to “mobilize a movement” of Trump haters.
“I’m very sad to have created more hate in a world that already has too much hate,” Stang told the Indianapolis Star. “The congregation doesn’t deserve it, the emotional turmoil I put them through.”
Stang, a gay organist at St. David’s Episcopal Church, called Rev. Kelsey Hutto at 8 a.m. on Nov. 13 to report the church was vandalized with hate speech. The anti-gay graffiti included “Heil Trump,” sparking fear in the church and plenty of media attention.
Police said they suspected the spray-painted messages were likely an inside job, because nothing about the outside appearance of the church suggests it supports gay marriage. Investigators eventually did a “tower dump” of cellphones in the area of the church when the crime was committed, which led them straight to Stang, the Star reports.
“Over the course of that week, I was fearful, scared and alone, too, in my fear,” Stang said. “I guess one of the driving factors behind me committing the act was that I wanted other people to be scared with me.”
Stang allegedly admitted to targeting the church when confronted by authorities, but insisted his intentions were good.
“To be clear, my actions were not motivated by hate for the church or its congregation,” Stang wrote in a statement for police. “I suppose I wanted to give local people a reason to fight for good even if it was a false flag. I of course realize now that this was NOT the way to go about inspiring activism.”
The Brown County Prosecutor’s Office says they do not believe the crime was motivated by hate, which is why he will not be charged with a hate crime.
Instead, Stang was arrested Wednesday on a charge of institutional criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor.
Indiana Trump campaign chairman Rex Early didn’t seem surprised by the stunt.
“I’ve been through a lot of elections, and I for one, have never seen the hatred coming from the people that we beat,” Early said. “You know we’ve always had a winner and a loser, and after the votes are counted, if you don’t like it, he’s still the president.”
St. David’s Rev. Kelsey Hutto posted a message to the church’s Facebook page Wednesday.
“This morning Nathan Stang was arrested for the vandalism of our church back in November. This comes as a complete surprise to me and to most of us,” Kelsey wrote. “Nathan is a member of our St. David’s family and naturally here is a certain amount of betrayal with this act.
“Over the coming weeks and days we will process our emotions regarding this hurtful act. I ask that we remember what we have stood for over the past few months – Love & Forgiveness.”
The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, also issued a statement on the ordeal.
“Christians are called to hold one another accountable for our choices and actions, but also to offer one another love and forgiveness. I do not know Nathan, who is not a member of the diocese and has worked at the church for about a year, but media reports indicate that he felt frightened and alone in the wake of last year’s presidential election and that he was attempting to catalyze a movement by instilling a sense of fear in the congregation and community,” the Bishop wrote, according to Fox 59.
“Many people in our country, particularly members of sexual, religious and racial minorities, have well-founded reasons to be fearful in these difficult times, but this terrible situation illustrates why we must resist the temptation to play to those fears.”
Brown County prosecutor Ted Adams told Fox 59 he’s happy put the hoax hate crime behind him.
“It had plauged our community for quite some time,” he said. “This may have been the most important Class A misdemeanor I’ve ever worked.”