Arrest made in Bean Blossom church vandalism case

Nathan Stang
Nathan Stang photo on church website
Nathan Stang
Nathan Stang jail booking photo

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 Sunday morning, Nov. 13 before 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.

“Stang, who is gay, stated he felt scared and alone because of the election results,” the court document said. He told the detective that his parents were not very supportive of him because of that and 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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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.

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 on May 1 to Shrader, admitting guilt.

“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 today with institutional criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor.

Prosecutor Ted Adams said this morning that an arrest warrant had been issued and Brown County deputies were en route to serve it. He was booked into jail at 10:30 a.m., posted $1,500 bond and was released at 11:04 a.m.

“The Brown County Prosecutor’s Office believes that, although this incident targeted one of our county’s churches and thrust our community in a negative light on a national stage, this was not a hate crime,” Adams said in a press release.

He 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.

Adams said the case “remains open and ongoing.”

However, “based upon the recent evidence during our extensive investigation, it is our belief that our community’s churches along with our LGBT community are collectively safe,” he said.

Hutto said she wouldn’t be able to comment right away about the arrest. She later posted a statement on the church’s Facebook page:

Joan Amati, a church member for 22 years, said she was shocked to hear the news, 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 her congregation would be forgiving.

“I think that they will forgive him, and if he chooses to come back to St. David’s to worship, that will be fine,” Amati said.

The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, released a statement this evening.

“This was a hurtful, dishonest and profoundly misguided action that stands against the values of the people of this diocese and the Episcopal Church, and we will continue to cooperate with the authorities who are pursuing this case,” she said.

“Many people in our country, particularly members of sexual, religious and racial minorities, have well-founded reasons to be fearful in these difficult times, but this terrible situation illustrates why we must resist the temptation to play to those fears,” she said. “Our job, as people of God, is to speak the truth in love, admit our own sins, and be ever mindful that seeking justice includes ending fear for all God’s people.”

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