Ministers in West Georgia came to the defense of an openly gay man, Keith Staples, after his home was burned down to the ground on January 23, hours after a stone wrapped in a note filled with threats and anti-gay slurs was thrown through his window.
The Times-Georgian reported that the officials are investigating the fire as arson and "an alleged hate crime."
“I am saddened to think that someone in our community could have this much hatred toward another person. However, it is at times like this that the church has the opportunity and responsibility to rise and shine. After all, this is what Christ commands Christians to do,” said Keith Jiles, pastor of Word of Life Gospel Ministries in Carrolton.
Larry Massey, the pastor of Life on the Word in Carrollton, stated, “I definitely hate anything like that to happen to anybody…I’ll definitely have our church praying for him.”
“People should not pretend this is not happening and the anti-gay religious movement is not contributing to it, I’ve seen it repeatedly,” said Dr. Daniel Helminiak, a psychology professor at the University of West Georgia, a Catholic priest and advisor to LAMBDA, the university’s gay-straight alliance group.
Although the federal hate crimes act was signed into law by President Obama in 2009, Georgia is one of the few states which still has no state level hate crime law. Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT activist group, has tried to work toward a state hate crime bill in the past but were unsuccessful. GA Voice reports Georgia Equality is currently working with the Anti-Defamation League on drafting legislation and choosing an appropriate lawmaker as sponsor.
GLAAD will continue reporting on hate crimes as well as LGBT progress made within the religious community.