Friday, May 24, 2013
By SCOTT DOLAN Staff Writer
A pastor in a small town in Waldo County says his church was targeted by vandals because of its stance against the proposal on Tuesday's ballot to legalize same-sex marriage.
Sometime Monday night or Tuesday morning, swastikas were painted on the front door of Stockton Springs Community Church and on both sides of two signs on the church's lawn.
Photos of the vandalism were in an email issued Tuesday afternoon by Protect Marriage Maine, the organization that opposed legalizing gay marriage. The pastor, Steve DeGroft, authorized the group to speak on the church's behalf.
Stockton Springs is a town of about 1,600 people, about 10 miles northeast of Belfast.
In a town so small, DeGroft believed the church must have been targeted for its stance, said Carroll Conley, co-chairman of Protect Marriage Maine.
Conley said the pastor spoke from the pulpit against Question 1, posted signs urging voters to oppose the measure and sent emails to members of the congregation opposing same-sex marriage.
Conley said DeGroft authorized Protect Marriage Maine to speak for him because DeGroft was busy working as a ballot counter during the election.
The group released a written statement that it said was from DeGroft: "I was shocked and horrified when I arrived at the church this morning and saw swastikas painted all over our property. ... Our congregation has taken a loving and respectful stand for traditional marriage in our community, but those who disagree want to silence and intimidate us."
Conley said his group received reports of campaign signs being stolen and vandalized elsewhere in the state Tuesday.
Waldo County Sheriff's Deputy Ben Seekins said he was headed to Stockton Springs around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to meet with the town manager on another matter when the swastikas on one of the church signs caught his eye.
As he drove into the church's driveway, he said, he noticed another swastika painted on the church door and found more on the fronts and backs of two signs.
Seekins, reached by phone Tuesday evening, said he assumed the church was targeted because of the pastor's opposition to Question 1.
"That was my first thought when I saw it," he said.
Seekins said he found empty cans of iced tea nearby and was investigating whether they may have been left by the vandals. "I'm going to see if there are any prints on the cans," he said.
Seekins asked anyone with information to contact the Waldo County Sheriff's Office at 338-2040.
The vandalism also caught the attention of the National Organization for Marriage, which posted images of it on its blog with a note calling it an "urgent campaign update."
The organization recently launched a robocall campaign and planned to spend $500,000 last weekend to reach 10 million people in Maine, Maryland, Washington, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania in advance of Election Day.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: