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Rivers of Living Water United Pentecostal pastor decries vandalism as 'retaliation' against his beliefs

COURTESY PHOTO: RIVERS OF LIVING WATER UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH - Early in the morning on Saturday, March 27, Pastor Russell Collier says he was alerted to the vandalism of his church. Less than a week after two opposing rallies — both supporting their divergent views of family values — were held in Sandy, the church that hosted one of the events was vandalized by graffiti.

Pastor Russell Collier of Rivers of Living Water United Pentecostal Church was alerted to the vandalism around 3 a.m. Saturday, March 27, when a friend of the family noticed the tagging. The church's main doors and signage were spray painted in black with the words "God is fake and gay" and "God is gay."

"I'm sad to see this level of disregard for other people's property," Collier said. "We live in a free country, but that does not give us freedom to commit crimes like this simply because we do not agree with a person's or a church's beliefs."

Collier described the motive for this vandalism as "retaliation," because it came on the heels of his rally and the "Have a Gay Day" hosted by the Sandy STAND UP Movement and Students Advocating for Equality. Both events were held Saturday, March 20.

This isn't the first time the church has been the target of opposition. Following a rally in February, Collier found similar messages written on banners and posters affixed to the church. The signs were easily removed and there was no damage in that incident.COURTESY PHOTO: RIVERS OF LIVING WATER UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH - In February, unknown people affixed banners and posters to the front of the the pentecostal church in Sandy, reading: 'God Loves Gays,' 'Love Thy Neighbor - Gay, Trans, Black, Muslim & Democrats' and 'We Love LGBT.'

Collier took to social media after the latest incident, calling the vandalism a sign of "intolerance" and implying the "Have a Gay Day" group was responsible.

But after being named in Collier's public Facebook post, organizers for "Have a Gay Day" sent out a comment condemning the vandalism as unproductive and "not aligning with (the group's) goals."

"An act of vandalism that could put members of the Sandy community in line for reprisals does not align with our goal of making Sandy a safer and more welcoming place for LGTBQ2SIA+ individuals," organizers said in a statement. "The organizers of this event and these groups want to make clear that this vandalism does not make Sandy safer for these individuals."

The act of vandalism of the church is still under investigation by the Sandy Police Department as a criminal mischief case. The police encourage anyone who may have information about the graffiti on the church to call the non-emergency number at 503-655-8211 and reference case No. 21-0348.

No suspects have been named and the estimated cost of the damage is unknown at this time.

"A lot of times, (crimes like these) are not a reflection of the group," Chief Ernie Roberts said of the allegations connecting the Have a Gay Day group to the vandalism. "Sometimes one or two members will get upset and think doing something like this is a good idea, when it's not. I don't think that's a representation of any one group."


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