Church Protested, Vandalized With LGBTQ Graffiti After Evicting Preschool That Hung Pride Flags
Courtesy Photo/Marblehead Current

A Massachusetts church was vandalized with LGBTQ graffiti and was subject to a 150-person protest after it evicted a preschool that hung Pride flags on church property.

Grace Community Church, located near Salem, Massachusetts, was targeted with spray paint on its outer wall that read, “Stay Gay. Stay Hard. Love is 4 everyone” with a crude rainbow drawn between the words.

The vandalism occurred amid the church’s battle with Mike Richmond, a gay man who owns Pleasant Street Preschool, which rents out a Sunday school classroom from the church. The school posted Pride flags outside the classroom, and Richmond recorded a video of two church members, Richard and Anne Steadman, removing the flags he posted outside the church. As Richmond and his boyfriend, Ryan Thompson, approached the couple, they engaged in a verbal dispute.

“Why are you guys taking down the pride flags?” Richmond asked as the two men crossed the street to the church.

“Because it’s a church that does not celebrate — you can have your time, but we don’t want to celebrate it if we don’t have to,” Mrs. Steadman said. “We’re also a church that believes in the Bible.” She added, “We have the freedom to do both things.”

“But what’s the message you’re sending to the children?” Richmond pushed.


The female churchgoer replied, “The message is that we honor your business, but you should honor our beliefs.”

“You’ll take our money, but you won’t celebrate who we are?”

You can celebrate who you are, but we don’t have to,” Steadman answered before the video ends.

Following the incident, Richmond accused the church of homophobia on the school’s official Instagram, saying the “real reason I’m being booted has become clear.” After the Sunday protest, he posted that the protest was “only the beginning of the battle against intolerance and injustice,” saying the town needed to “face the uncomfortable truth about the underlying bigotry in the heart of this town.”

The school owner later said that the school would close immediately because he and the children’s parents “don’t feel safe” continuing to run the school in the church building, according to the Marblehead Current.

He also emailed Pastor David Brame and the church elders about the incident and the church’s March request that the school leave the property in three months. The church elders replied to Richmond’s email, making no mention of the incident. According to The Marblehead Current, the church denied trying to kick the school out, and the church knew the couple was gay before approving their lease.

“We wanted more flexibility and access to the space we are currently leasing to you,” the reply said. “Once you shared that this step would likely put you and your partner out of a job, and that the families who had just signed up for the ‘23-’24 school year had little time to find substitute day care, we reconsidered and extended your lease, not wanting to cause harm to your business and hardship for your enrolled families.”

The Marblehead Pride Committee also decried the vandalism. However, Peyton Pugmire, a member of the MPC, condemned the church, saying, “For a church or any organization in our small town to act in that way … in a town where kindness rules the day, is surprising. For this church to choose to discriminate and behave so hatefully is shocking.”

Despite his ongoing dispute with Grace Community Church, Richmond condemned the vandalism in a post on the preschool’s Instagram page. He told The Salem News he reported the vandalism to Marblehead police when he arrived at the church Friday morning.

The controversy engaged many local LGBTQ activists and faith leaders and came amid a broader national conversation surrounding religious liberty and LGBTQ ideology. Recently, LGBTQ activists have clashed with both Christians and Muslims. Additionally, controversy erupted when middle schoolers protested their Massachusetts school’s Pride Month celebration in nearby Burlington, Massachusetts.

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