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Tenn. Man's Attacks on LGBTQ-Affirming Church Lead to Hate Crimes Charges

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 31, 2019

A man from Nashville, Tennessee, is in custody and facing hate crimes charges in two separate incidents of vandalism on an LGBTQ-affirming church in Milford, Connecticut, news sources reported.

The 30-year-old suspect Charles Yarbrough told police he targeted Mary Taylor Church because he thought it was "pushing the LGBT agenda," reported Newschannel 5 in Yarbrough's home town of Nashville.

The Connecticut Post offered more details, reporting that Yarbrough is accused of two incidents of vandalism against the church. The first took place June 27, when the suspect allegedly slashed chairs and defaced a railing made of wood. The second attack reportedly took place when Yarbrough went into a spiritual community center adjacent to the church and allegedly took some sort of bladed weapon - possible a box cutter - to the door fo the church's pastor, Rev. Kristina Hansen.

Mary Taylor Church has long been open and affirming and recently put up a sign reminding the community of that fact. The rainbow-colored sign went up just after a major American denomination, the United Methodist Church, voted to amp up its discriminatory stance on families headed by same-gender couples, as well as non-heterosexual clerics.

Rev. Hanson encouraged people to "pray for" Yarbrough, and for "people who are struggling," and added that "it doesn't dissuade us from our stance of affirmation," the Connecticut Post reported.

"We're the church, and we're going to continue to be that."

The church reiterated that stance in a Facebook post.

Yarbrough faces bias crimes charges in connection with the vandalism incidents, but reports said that's not the only violence he's accused of having committed. The suspect also faces assault charges for allegedly punching a woman in the face on June 30, reported The Courant.

That incident has led to Yarbrough being hit with third-degree assault charges, media outlets said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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