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JIC Post:WASHINGTON, July 12 — St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ (UCC) in Middlebrook, Va., was vandalized in the early hours of July 9, with anti-gay graffiti and a small fire started in the sanctuary. Police and church leaders suspect the attack was in response to the UCC's General Synod gay-affirming vote on July 4 when delegates overwhelmingly approved a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. Statement from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable: "The Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable denounces the anti-gay violence committed against St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ in Middlebrook, Va. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has expressed its support for full marriage equality for same-sex couples with careful prayer and deliberation. Any backlash or act of violence against a UCC congregation for the denomination's courageous action can only be interpreted as an attack on its constitutional right to free exercise of religion and should be condemned by all who respect that right. "'There is no question that hateful actions come from hateful words,' said the Rev. Steven Baines, steering committee member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable and an elder in the Disciples of Christ denomination. 'The perpetrators of this attack against a sacred space have been trained to hate by faith leaders who tell them gay people are sick and by state and federal governments that are working to enshrine discrimination in their constitutions. It is the responsibility of all people of faith to denounce this attack and stem the tide of homophobia that is flooding our country.' "Crimes motivated by bias against one's 'religious conviction' carry enhanced penalties under Virginia's hate crimes law, and we encourage law enforcement to prosecute the individuals responsible for attacking our houses of worship to the fullest extent the law will allow. We also urge Virginia lawmakers to pass a law that places crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity bias with the categories covered by the existing hate crimes law."
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