SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. – Santa Ynez residents woke up Thursday morning to see that the Pride flag that used to fly high out front of St. Mark's-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church had been cut down overnight.
"The act of cutting down this is one of hate. We give our condolences to and share our outrage with (St. Mark's)," Santa Ynez Pride said in an Instagram statement on Thursday. "This shows that even after all the progress made in the Santa Ynez Valley, there is still much work to be done."
Father Randall Day said that it's not about the flag being stolen, but about what the flag represents.
"Our intention in hanging the flag is to welcome everybody. The people who did this are out of step with the community and out of step with everybody," Day told News Channel 3-12. "A flag is a flag, but it was obviously representative of a lot of people in our community and in Santa Barbara County, and that's our concern."
Many community members have stepped up to show their support, acknowledging the importance of the flag. Somewhere between five and 10 people have bought new flags for the church to hang, Day said.
"Our response is to be strong and carry on," he added. "We're putting another flag back up."
Santa Ynez Pride said that it has received a lot of private messages from community members asking how they can help, and that fellow businesses have shared its Instagram post on their stories asking the community to be vigilant and come together.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident, and Day said that Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann has shown the church tremendous support.