The Christian Right has gotten complacent under Bush, They now feel safe committing petty crimes like vandalism, certain that no one will dare oppose them. But one lady in Tifton, Goergia, a small city half way between Atlanta and the Florida line. is taking them on. SHe needs our help.
Here's how I got involved.
I am on a lot of lists, but one of my favorites is called Gothic Décor. It’s aimed at those of us whose taste in home décor extends beyond matched sets from Rooms To Go. We have enthusiasts of many styles; High Medieval complete with faux stone walls, Late Victorian, Romantic, and Asian Simplicity. Some folks are Goths, but many aren’t—they just share a similar taste for a more personal style of decorating. It’s a great place to learn techniques and how to locate suppliers for more esoteric items like fake stone. There are some great links on the website and wonderful photos of people’s projects.
Last week, though, one of our members, Shonda, posted in great distress. She lives next to the Alapah (UMC) church; their parking lot abuts her property. She had several large trees and a hedge, which gave her privacy from prying eyes and which kept her summer electric bill down by providing shade for the three large front rooms. Her neighbor, a member of the church board, warned her husband that the board planned to do something to their hedge and trees. She suggested he get over to the courthouse and get a copy of info on the property line. He did so, and even located the property line stakes. The trees and hedge were, indeed, on THEIR side of the line, not the church’s. He showed the neighbor, and asked them to hold off on doing anything until he got home from work.
Well, when Shonda came home after work, the trees and the hedge were gone. As Shonda described it to our list:
Last Tues April 24th at 6pm my husband and I came home to find that the church that is directly across the street from us, United Methodist Church of Alapaha, GA had brought in a tree logger, a back hoe and other heavy equipment and RIPPED out every single tree, a 7 foot hedge, and every shrub WE OWNED. They were having a "tail gate" party when I pulled up to my house. Sitting there smugly smiling and waiting to see the reactions on our faces. I asked them what type of people would do such a hateful act, specially a church group. They just grinned and snickered. Oh, but wait, they left ONE tree cause it was an inch over on their property. That is to let us know that everything on our property line had to go, but thier’s could stay! These people have always been pleasant to us, and we to them. Even the woman who was leading the lynch mob, Carla P. has been in our house, her son’s needed some extra cash for the summer and we needed some help w/the house, so even some of these people have been to our house. I have a ½ acre lot of property they tore out every thing from ONE END OF MY PROPRTY FROM ONE STREET TO THE OTHER STREET. About 250- 350 feet !!!! MY ENTIRE side of my property is GONE!!!!!! It looked like a flip’n tornado came threw!
I DO have permission to quote from her emails.
Mind you, Shonda had never had any problems with these folks before. She had even attended the church a couple of times, but selected a Baptist one instead. She had no warning other than the unofficial one from her friend. She isn’t a Goth or a punk or even a Wiccan, just a nice married Baptist woman who loves her late Victorian house and wants to do some renovations on it. She’s kept the yard in good repair, so there was no reason for this—and, more to the point—the church had no right to do this, since she owns the property they vandalized.
As she said, in reply to my query as to whether they might be violating any home association rules or doing anything that people might view as " Satanic Gothic":
Church never said a peep about our yard, which was kept up most of the time any how. And I just found out yesterday that they did this to the previous owner of this house before us (third owner before us) and she was the one who replanted every thing back on HER property. We are in negotiations right now w/the church.....but I will sue if things are not fixed correctly. Hateful bunch of people that is for sure. Our house looks NO different than anyone elses. I'm not good at decorating outside, just inside of a house
She called the police and field an incident report. And after the police left, people started driving by, honking their horns and laughing. On my list, she says she no longer feels safe. She misses her privacy and her feeling of safety. And she can’t help wondering if the fact that she is Italian in ethnicity and her husband Filipino might have played a role—they’re not typical white bread WASPs. More to the point, she’s taken on a local church—and, down here, Methodists is really more like SBC Lite rather than the moderate mainstream denomination I was used to up North. She’s an outsider, only lived there for 6 years, and she’s dared to take on a PREACHER publicly. That's practically a hanging offense down here.
Calls to the church and the regional supervisors of the denomination have gotten nowhere. At least the district supervisor muttered an "I’m sorry" half-heartedly. The pastor and the board have yet to admit any wrong-doing other than over the way it was handled.
Here’s the full story complete with photos of the decimated yard. And here are the email addresses for the local honchos—maybe a few emails will get them off their duffs and they’ll see that something gets done about this act of vandalism.
Bishop: B. Michael Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
District Superintendent: Rev. Donald Adams email@example.com
Southeastern Jurisdiction: firstname.lastname@example.org
She also posted the home address for the pastor, but I feel uncomfortable posting anyone's address on a public forum, even someone who richly deserves nasty mail, as this guy does. If you choose to email them, the pastor's name is Rev. Jack Atkinson.
She hasn’t gotten an apology or an admission of guilt from the church board or the pastor. Nor hs the district offered to do anything to allay the damages.
This is OUR property, we pay taxes on it. It is not rental. The land stakes are visible for ALL to see where the property line is at. Any one eyed idiot could clearly see the property line. All these trees, hedges, etc, were either ON our property or on the property line. Which the ones on the property line were still ours because a grandfather clause steps in. Any person maintaining the up keep on a fence, tree, bush, etc, on the property line for over 7 years is that persons property. We had been there for 6 years and the owners before that 2, (and the owners before that too) we all maintained the care of these bushes, trees, etc. So dropping them an e-mail will only help our cause.
it is truly sad when you have to use shame and the threat of bad publicity and a law suit to get supposed Christians to do the right thing.
One good thing DID happen. A couple who are members of another Methodist church have offered to donate plants and saplings help out. But nothing official from the UMC denomination. And that kind neighbor who was a board member and warned them of what was planned? She and her family were kicked out of the church. "Christian" love at its finest. Jesus would have wept at this unkindness.
Currently, she is looking into the possibility of a law suit against the church—but with only 44 members, including the kids, it doesn’t have deep pockets.
If this annoys you as much as it did me, feel free to e-mail Pastor Jack Atkinson’s superiors in the UMC. A little pressure can work miracles.
I diaried about this small local story because someone on the list suggested Shonda contact Daily Kos. We have THAT kind of reputation for standing up for the ordinary guy against the Powers That Be. I figured I’d save her the trouble of contacting people here, and just wrote it up myself.