From the outset, we would like to remind our readers that we do not condone harm done to people or property, even against our staunchest opponents.
That said, the decision to sentence a man to 16 years in prison for burning an LGBT pride flag hanging outside a church in Ames, Iowa comes as no less of a shock.
The Des Moines Register reports:
Adolfo Martinez, 30, of Ames, was found guilty last month of third-degree arson in violation of individual rights — hate crime, third-degree harassment, and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender.
He was arrested after stealing a pride banner hanging at Ames United Church of Christ, 217 6th St., and burning it early June 11 outside Dangerous Curves Gentleman’s Club, 111 5th St., police said.
Martinez admitted to police that he lit the banner on fire with lighter fluid and a lighter after stealing it from the church, according to court documents.
Martinez had initially faced a maximum of five years in prison for the hate crime and arson charge and a maximum of a year and month for the other two charges, according to Iowa sentencing guidelines, but court records listed him as a habitual offender, prompting Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds to call for maximum sentencing, with which the judge agreed..
“I believe him to be very dangerous,” Reynolds said. “That’s why my office recommended the maximum sentence.”
“The defendant stated that there was nothing the judge could to stop him from continuing this behavior and that he would continue to do this no matter what,” Reynolds added.
In June, Martinez told KCCI that he tore down and burned the flag and had no regrets whatsoever.
“No, I’m guilty as charged,” he said at the time. “It was an honor to (burn the flag). It’s a blessing from the Lord.”
In an interview with KCCI, the church’s minister, Eileen Gebbie, said she felt the sentence was heartbreaking, but necessary.
“Nobody got shot (and) nobody was sexually assaulted,” Gebbie said. “It was a banner. How much does that hurt?”
“But I had to reflect on the fear it created in our sanctuary,” she continued. “People became afraid to go to church. We had to continue to talk about how to prepare for an active shooter and we learned from the trial Mr. Martinez had been watching our church for some time.”
Gebbie also told KCCI that her church offered to help pay for Martinez’s legal bills and to financially support his three children upon his imprisonment. Still, she stands by the clear message sent by the sentence: “We do not tolerate hatred on the basis of biology.”
However wrong Martinez was to break the law and deface the church’s property, to say nothing of the fear he may have caused its parishioners to feel, this sentence is positively Orwellian.
Would Martinez have been so strongly sentenced if he’d been an atheist defacing a banner outside a conservative Christian church? Or do the scales of justice only tip in one direction?
We must abide by the laws of the nation in which God has placed us, but how long will we stand by while those laws become increasingly more draconian, ever harsher punishing anyone who dares to question the LGBT status quo?
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