BEAN BLOSSOM — The organist at St. David’s Episcopal Church has been charged for spray-painting hate messages on the church shortly after Election Day last November.
George “Nathan” Stang, 26, of Bloomington, called the Rev. Kelsey Hutto on Nov. 13 before Sunday morning services began to report the vandalism.
On April 28, he admitted to Brown County Det. Brian Shrader that he spray-painted a swastika, “Heil Trump” and “Fag Church” on the building, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed May 3 in Brown Circuit Court.
The court document says that Stang stated he “felt scared and alone because of the election results.” Stang, who told police he is gay, said he wanted to “mobilize a movement,” but he didn’t want it to generate the amount of media attention that the vandalism caused, the document said.
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Stang was “adamant that he did not do it because he was anti-Christian; rather, that his intentions were strictly out of fear,” the police report says.
He also submitted a three-page written statement May 1 to Shrader, admitting guilt, the court document said.
“I suppose I wanted to give local people a reason to fight for good even if it was a false flag,” it says. “I, of course, realize now that this was not the way to go about inspiring activism.”
Stang was charged May 3 with institutional criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, and booked into the Brown County jail.
Hutto was interviewed about the incident on national television. The church received hundreds of messages of support from across the country and the world.
On Nov. 30, after leaving the graffiti up for a couple weeks to “start a conversation,” church members and supporters gathered to clean it off and come together in prayer.
Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams said in a news release that he did not believe this fit the definition of a “hate crime.” Indiana is one of a handful of states that do not allow tougher penalties for crimes motivated by bias on race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Adams called the incident “a blight on our small and diverse community,” and thanked officers for the six months of investigative work that led to the charges.
Joan Amati, a church member for 22 years, said she was shocked to hear news of Stang’s arrest, partially because St. David’s had been “so supportive of him.”
She said Stang has been working on contract as the organist, pianist and choir director for about eight months. The church’s website says he is a composer who’s working on a doctorate degree in music at Indiana University.
Amati said Stang been continuing to attend all services and church meals since the incident, even picking up another parishioner and bringing her to church regularly.
She predicted that the church would respond with a general message of forgiveness.
Hutto echoed that message in a statement posted on the church’s Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. She called Stang’s arrest “a complete surprise” and said the news came with “a certain amount of betrayal.”
“When news broke of the incident, we said that we have/will forgive the perpetrator and that we would invite him into our midst,” she wrote.
“This presents us with a unique opportunity to practice what we preach. We will walk the fine line of forgiveness and welcoming into our midst while still holding Nathan responsible.”