A week after a sign promoting support for LGBTQ people, immigrants and Muslims at the Maryland Presbyterian Church on Providence Road in Towson was vandalized, more than 200 people packed the house of worship during a rally that preached hope and action.
“We will not stay silent while hate rears its ugly head,” said Zainab Chaudry, director of Maryland outreach for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who spoke to the Towson congregation. “If any single one of us is afraid, none of us are safe.”
This is not the first time that the church has experienced such adversity.
It was previously vandalized, and in October 2018 the church received a threatening phone call objecting to its support of the LGBTQ community, according to the Rev. David Norse Thomas, who has led the church since October 2017. The incidents have only motivated the congregation to continue to support adversely affected communities, according to Norse Thomas.
Chaudry spoke to the congregation about the current climate of the country — referring to anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiments, racial justice issues within the black community and recent synagogue attacks. She laid some blame at the feet of President Donald Trump.
“This administration’s racist agenda has emboldened it,” she said.
County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. attended the rally with his 3-year-old daughter, Daria.
“I think it is important to show clearly and loudly that hate has no place in Baltimore County,” he said. “This is reprehensible and has no place.”
During the rally, Norse Thomas challenged the county executive to meet with a coalition of community activists and people of faith in the next 30 days to discuss further actions. Olszewski immediately agreed to the meeting, which resulted in a round of applause.
“If you are truly an American and you truly believe in the Constitution, then you will be willing to defend the people of all races, ethnicities and religions,” she added. “I feel so uplifted by today.”