By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Shimpo
PASADENA — An LGBTQ pride flag that hung at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple was burned on Monday evening, in what police investigators are saying is a possible hate crime.
Rev. Gregory Gibbs said the temple’s volunteer maintenance crew discovered the remnants of the burned flag on the ground early Tuesday morning. The hand-painted rainbow flag had been displayed at the temple for years.
“A neighbor told us she saw the fire and put it out with a garden hose,” Gibbs told The Rafu. “It was already destroyed for the most part, but she was afraid the flames would spread to the trees next to the fence.”
Gibbs told ABC7 that the temple never received complaints about the flag until a couple weeks ago when a man came in and objected to the flag. Surveillance video of the man has been shared with the police.
“Pasadena Police sent their captain of arson investigations, and they’ve been very helpful,” said Gibbs. “This is an act of hate. We try to open our house of worship to everyone and anyone. We recently organized our LGBTQ support center, along with the Gardena Buddhist Church. We want everyone to feel welcome here.”
Gardena Buddhist Church’s Ichi-mi program provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ identifying people within the Sangha, their family members, and allies.
A Black Lives Matter flag and a similar rainbow flag hang outside the Pasadena temple. Gibbs said they will look to replace the one that was destroyed.
According to the latest L.A. County Human Relations Commission hate crimes report, religious and sexual orientation hate crimes have risen. Sexual orientation hate crimes rose in 2021 for the second year in a row, increasing 15% from 122 to 140.
The commission reported that after declining in 2020, religiously motivated crime rose 29% from 86 to 111. They represented 14% of all reported hate crimes in 2021, up from 13%.
The Japanese American National Museum issued a statement condemning the incident as an “act of hate,” noting other cases of vandalism at local houses of worship, including Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles during Ramadan, one of the holiest months for Muslims; and two separate anti-semitic acts of violence outside two different synagogues in L.A.’s Pico-Robertson neighborhood.
“We are deeply troubled by these hateful acts and by the rise in hate crimes across the country,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “These are intentional crimes that are solely motivated by prejudice, bias, and animus. They create fear and division and further sow mistrust that damages the fabric of our society and fragments our communities.
“Our hearts are with the members of the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, the Islamic Center of Southern California, the Beit El synagogue in Los Angeles, and with communities across the country who are targets of these hateful acts. The history of the World War ll incarceration of Japanese Americans is rooted in hate, prejudice and discrimination and JANM therefore has a moral obligation to stand with communities of color who are confronting hate head on.”
Anyone with information about the incident should call the Pasadena Police at (626) 744-4241.