BROWN COUNTY, Ind. – The organist at a Brown County church is accused of vandalizing the church in order to “mobilize a movement” after he was disappointed by the election results.
After an extensive six-month investigation, George Nathaniel Stang, 26, of Bloomington, is charged with institutional criminal mischief in connection with the vandalism that occurred at St. David's Episcopal Church last year.
The investigation began on November 13, 2016 when Reverend Kelsey Hutto called police to report that the phrase “HEIL TRUMP” was painted on the north wall of the building, and a swastika and gay slur were on the west side.
She said she found out about the graffiti from Stang who is the organist at the church.
Officers obtained a search warrant for Stang’s detailed phone records and determined he was in the area of the church from 10:38 p.m. and 10:44 p.m. on the night the vandalism occurred.
Police questioned Stang at his apartment on February 23, 2017, and he denied being at the church on Saturday.
But when an officer questioned Stang again on April 28, 2017, he admitted to vandalizing the church. Stang said he wanted to “mobilize a movement” after being disappointed in and fearful of the election results. He said his actions were not motivated by “anti-Christian or anti-gay” feelings; rather, they were strictly out of fear.
FOX 59 talked with Stang over the phone, he said, 'I whole heartedly regret what I did. These actions are not representative of my views. One of the things I regret the most is adding more hatred in a world that already has so much.'
The Brown County Prosecutor’s Office says they do not believe the crime was motivated by hate, which is why he will not be charged with a hate crime.
"We are a very small diverse community and it has plagued our community for quite some time," explains Ted Adams, Brown County Prosecuting Attorney.
Stang was arrested on Wednesday, and his case will be filed in the Brown County Circuit Court.
Statement from The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis:
I was saddened to learn this morning that the vandalism of St. David’s Church in Bean Blossom was committed by the church’s organist, Nathan Stang, who has admitted to police that he spray painted hateful graffiti on the church last November in the wake of the presidential election. This was a hurtful, dishonest, and profoundly misguided action that stands against the values of the people of this diocese and the Episcopal Church, and we will continue to cooperate with the authorities who are pursuing this case.
We are living now in a political climate that is so divisive and highly charged that people from all across the political spectrum are making thoughtless and hurtful choices that they believe are justified by the righteousness of their causes. As people who follow Jesus, we must find a different way.
Christians are called to hold one another accountable for our choices and actions, but also to offer one another love and forgiveness. I do not know Nathan, who is not a member of the diocese and has worked at the church for about a year, but media reports indicate that he felt frightened and alone in the wake of last year’s presidential election and that he was attempting to catalyze a movement by instilling a sense of fear in the congregation and community. Many people in our country, particularly members of sexual, religious and racial minorities, have well-founded reasons to be fearful in these difficult times, but this terrible situation illustrates why we must resist the temptation to play to those fears. Our job, as people of God, is to speak the truth in love, admit our own sins, and be ever mindful that seeking justice includes ending fear for all God’s people.
I know that this incident has been deeply painful for many people at St. David’s, in our diocese, in Bean Blossom and surrounding communities, and across the country. As bishop, I want to offer my sincere apology to those who have been hurt both by what happened in November and what is happening today. As this story unfolds in the media and in the courts, I hope that you will join me in praying for St. David’s and its leaders, for Bean Blossom, for Nathan, and for everyone who has found in this incident a reason to be afraid.