DANBURY--A second crime has felt like a slap in the face to church leaders in Danbury working for years to embrace the gay, lesbian and transgender community.
A pride flag that hung outside the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury has been destroyed by a vandal.
Rev. Barbara Fast says a church employee discovered burnt remains of that pride flag early Wednesday morning. This is the second time the flag has been burned to a crisp this summer.
"She noticed the flag wasn't there, and wondered if it'd be taken, and when she came out there, she came across the flag in this condition," Fast said.
Many Unitarian Universalist churches display pride flags to show support for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, including the 150-member Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury.
"As Unitarian Universalist, we've been working for inclusion and equality for LGBT folks since the 1970s," said Rev. Fast.
This week's incident is the second time a pride flag outside the church has been burned. On July 18 church leaders discovered the first burned flag. That first flag was hung outside the church just weeks earlier to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
"I think now that there's a second incident, it's becoming clearer that this isn't a prank," said Walt Sizemore, Unitarian Universalist Congregation president.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says Police believe the church was targeted upon burning of the second flag.
With the first flag's incineration, police had believed it was an act of vandalism and not a hate crime. But now that is a possibility,
Mayor Mark Boughton said when the person who burned the flags is caught, they could face hate-crime charges.
"It's certainly not reflective of this community. If we catch the people or people's involved with this, and hopefully prosecute them under the hate crimes we have in the state of Connecticut," Boughton said.
Others in the city want justice for the congregation.
"That's sad. That's really sick somebody would do something like that," said Danbury resident Helen Greer.
The Danbury congregation is among of the oldest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the northeast region, and its leaders want to use this as opportunity to open a dialogue about hatred in the community.
"We`ll put up as many flags as we need to put up, and more than that, this is an important conversation to have in the community," said Fast.
The church vows to hang a new pride flag to replace the old one. There are plans for a re-dedication service to commemorate the new flag, after Sunday's service.
"Transforming hearts takes awhile, so this is an invitation to us, and out of the ashes, new life will rise," said Fast.