February 24, 2024

If you stole the rainbow banners from the chapel last October, you did more than steal banners. You threatened the message that on Wittenberg’s campus, all are beloved. 

That is what the banners said: You are Beloved. Deacon Dan Jacob hung up the first banner outside of the chapel on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Two days later there was nothing left but a steak knife on the ground beside where the banner had been, and the banner’s jagged edges still screwed onto its frame. The banner represented the chapel’s support of LGBT History Month in October.

One police report later, the chapel ordered a second, identical banner: big white letters over a wavy rainbow, but this time with “sponsored by the Pastor’s Office” at the bottom. Jacob posted the banner the following Tuesday. It was again gone by Thursday.

“We had made a statement of support across campus, and that statement of support had been torn down,” Jacob said. “The overall sense that this campus is a safe place in which to celebrate all people–that had come under attack.”

These attacks spurred conversations with the Gender and Sexual Diversity Alliance (GSDA), Joshua Moore and the McClain Center, the library, student development and various students across campus. 

A result of these conversations was an email from President Frandsen to all of campus which stated, “While we do not know the intent of the perpetrators (targeted? dare from friends?), we do know the impact – these acts hurt and demean LGBTQIA+ members of our community.”

While Frandsen and the chapel urge the culprits to come forward and reconcile with the chapel and the LGBTQIA+ community, the chapel still maintains contact with Wittenberg Police Chief Jim Hutchinson, who has a few leads in the ongoing investigation.

Jacob also noted that in the same timeline, a rainbow flag had been stolen from the library lobby’s October display, giving all stolen items one thing in common: rainbows.

“It’s possible this was done by a secret society,” Jacob said. “Knowing that one of the secret societies maintains the rainbow as one of its symbols, the banners could have been a trophy of their secret society. That doesn’t change any of the other things we have thought about or wanted to say to campus.”

While the chapel has the same message for campus, the incidents have made it more difficult for this message to be said. “It’s made us hesitant to say what we believe is true,” Jacob said. “That all students are welcomed and truly beloved by God regardless of their sexual orientation, race or even religion.”

The chapel has sent its message of welcome in new ways this year. As one example, the chapel worked with GSDA, Taylor Benford (’22) and Oliver Gietzen (’22) to bring Pastor Avery to campus for Trans Day of Remembrance.  

Jacob urged the campus to show their support for the LGBT+ community by attending their events and supporting one another, concrete ways that cannot be torn down.

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