Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why 'Black Lives Matter' Banner Thefts Matter | Editorial
February 23, 2016 at 10:39 AM

We know absolutely nothing about the vandal or vandals who twice destroyed "Black Lives Matter" banners that were put up outside a Cherry Hill church.

The first time, about 10 days ago, a banner was stolen. Then, on Sunday morning, Unitarian Universal Church officials discovered that a replacement banner and a second banner had been stolen, and a wooden frame and lights nearby had been damaged.

A Feb. 25 event to discuss the movement in South Jersey was planned.

Why are so many who have commented on nj.com willing to give this vandalism a pass? The second incident makes clear that this was an attempt to silence the views of one religious group. Yet, the majority of those responding to articles about the incidents ignored the crime before launching into arguments over the meaning of "Black Lives Matter."

Are we no longer concerned with actions that try to impinge on religious freedoms?

No one, of course, will confuse the Universal Unitarian Church with one of the country's more doctrinaire religious denominations. It has a live-and-let live attitude. The Cherry Hill church in particular supported same-sex unions and marriage long before a majority of the public and related institutions signed on. The "Black Lives Matter" slogan seemingly represents the liberal church's particular view about justice system inequality — but, maybe even that is too presumptuous about the banner's intent.

Actually, church representatives say their aim was to stimulate discussion on issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. The banners advertised a community meeting still scheduled for this coming Thursday evening. We hope it goes ahead as scheduled.

In a true definition of inclusiveness, someone responding to "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter," "Police Lives Matter," or even "White Lives Matter," shouldn't be dismissed as "racist." These phrases are discussion points if used in the context of conversing about underlying issues.

Regardless of why the church hung the banner, doesn't it have a right to display the slogan on its own property without it being trashed or ripped down? Such actions are the antithesis of religious freedom.

As a criminal act, destroying a church sign with any kind of  "... lives matter" sentiment is more serious than stealing a plant from a front porch and less serious than burning a cross or spray-painting a swastika as a form of intimidation. Based on what is known so far, the Cherry Hill incidents probably do not meet the legal test of hate crimes.

But when those of any viewpoint fail to condemn the act, and retreat instead to preconceived views about race, it's far from South Jersey's finest hour.

Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

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