In a community like Martha’s Vineyard, where people rally to help one another at every turn, it can be shocking when there is an act of hate, intolerance, or bigotry.
When we first heard that some Island churches were tagged with a decal for flying a rainbow flag, the symbol of pride for the LGBTQ community, we were deeply disappointed and disgusted.
But surprised? Hardly. We live in a time of incivility that’s fueled by the partisanship of the country’s leadership — particularly President Donald Trump, who stands at rallies and encourages derogatory chants and uses language himself that is hurtful and bigoted. For example, there’s just no excuse that after it’s been pointed out time and again as a slur, the president uses the name “Pocahontas” to refer to Elizabeth Warren.
We shouldn’t accept that kind of incivility and hatred from our leaders — or our neighbors.
That’s why we were glad to see the Island Clergy Council speak out in support of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Vineyard Haven, the United Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs, and the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury after all three of the churches were tagged with anti-gay decals. Those decals read, “Whatever God calls ‘sin’ is nothing to be proud of. Isaiah 3:9,” against a rainbow background.
Make no mistake: The message was a clear, hateful attempt to condemn the support those churches offer to the LGBTQ community.
“We state unequivocally that we and our various religious traditions are united against hatred and discrimination, and that we stand together in respecting the dignity of every human being,” the council said in a statement. “We make this statement in our current climate of rancor and divisiveness that many of us have not seen since the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. We are deeply concerned by the erosion of civility and the current trend that relegates those who disagree to a demonized other, one whose voice and opinions are not worth listening to. We are as concerned and more by the motivations and actions of those who have taken their ideology to the next step of doing harm to others through their speech or actions. We acknowledge that people, often religiously or ideologically motivated, may disagree and hold differing views concerning the beliefs and actions of others.”
These types of incidents should be reported immediately and investigated thoroughly.
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, tweeted about the incident: “The recent anti-LGBTQ+ actions against Vineyard churches are despicable. These hateful attacks do not represent a loving, tolerant, and inclusive Vineyard community.”
The Island is a welcoming, diverse, and tolerant place. It’s easy to get comfortable and not realize that even here there can be underlying intolerance for people with different beliefs, and discrimination against those who are gay or transgender — some of it done in the name of religion.
There is a Letter to the Editor on these same pages from Rev. Matthew B. Splittgerber of Vineyard Assembly of God. We’ll let the letter speak for itself, but it demonstrates that while there is united condemnation of the act of vandalism from Island clergy, tolerance still has a ways to go.
Gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for 15 years, and last year voters in the commonwealth upheld protection for transgender people from discrimination in the use of public restrooms and locker rooms.
We’ve come a long away.
Rabbi Caryn Broitman of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center summed it up this way: “There’s so much goodwill and good feeling on the Island. And we want to strengthen that. It only takes a very small group to put that off-balance.”
We need to restore the balance.