Geauga County church out to prove love wins after pride flag is stolen dozens of times

Over the last year, a number of pride flags were stolen from the church. But, after every theft, the stolen flag was replaced with a new one.
Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 7:13 PM EDT
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CHESTERLAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Geauga County congregation is out to prove that love will always win.

The Community Church of Chesterland is a place of inclusivity. And the church wants everyone driving by to know it. Its LGBTQ+ pride flag sits on the corner of Wilson Mills and Caves Road.

Flying a rainbow flag is nothing new for the congregation. But what is new is the actual flag sitting on the corner Sunday. That’s because the church’s previous pride flag was stolen this weekend.

“We are a place of welcome and acceptance for all people,” said Dan Craig, who’s been a member of the church for 28 years. Twenty-eight is also the number of times the church’s pride flag has been stolen over the years.

“Four or five years ago we started adding the flag. We put it up through Pride month, and they said ‘no we should keep it up all of the time. This is one of our ministries. This is who we are as a church’ and the church is probably about 95% heterosexual,” Craig said.

The church is part of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and is open and affirming, which is the way many in the UCC declare welcome and inclusion of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Craig said over the last year the number of their pride flags stolen appears to be up. But, after every theft, the stolen flag was replaced with a new one.

“We need to keep it out on the corner where it’s visible,” Craig said, adding that he paid for each flag with his own money.

About two years ago, the church installed a security camera that faces down at the flag, but Craig said they’ve only managed to catch one of the thieves on camera, so far. He said it was a high schooler.

“Most of what we get off the camera is the flag-waving,” he said.

Something else the church got that they weren’t expecting was an outpouring of support from the surrounding community.

“We’ve received two or three donations that were sent to the church, either through our online giving or actual checks, in the last week or so,” said Craig, adding that when he arrived at church Sunday morning there was a bag of 10 rainbow flags sitting at the door.

Craig said the church has reported each theft to the Chester Township Police Department.

19 News reached out to the police department for comment on the thefts.

We were told the police chief is on vacation, so the department will be issuing a statement Monday.

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