A recent candidate for the the Washington House of Representatives may face charges after he allegedly seized and pulled down a rainbow Pride flag that had been hanging at a church on Bainbridge Island.
Daniel Charles Svoboda, 41, faces possible charges of harassment and malicious mischief for removing the flag and allegedly threatening people at Seabold United Methodist Church, including telling them that he’d come back if they put the flag back up, reports the Port Townsend-based newspaper The Leader.
Police on Bainbridge Island say they were called to the church in July, after employees of Island Time Activities, a nonprofit that works with people with developmental disabilities which leases space at the church for its program, said they saw a man take down the pride flag and tell one of the workers not to put it back up before driving off in a car.
The man was wearing a red shirt with the word “Trump” on the front, and, using the numbers on car’s license plate, was later identified as Svoboda.
The church has since decided to press charges against Svoboda.
Svoboda, of Port Ludlow, recently ran for the 24th House District, 1st position, as a member of the “Trump Republican Party,” finishing third in the state’s “top-two” primary with 15% of the vote, meaning he will not appear on the ballot in the general election.
Svoboda admitted to The Leader he took down the flag, though he denies threatening anyone.
“The reason I took the flag down is because it sends the wrong message to the very world that the church is supposed to be saving,” he wrote in an email.
“The mission of the church/body of Christ is to be a beacon of light unto a lost, dark and hurting world and to be a place of salvation from one’s own sins,” Svoboda said. “The church has lost her way and fails to communicate this message when it flies a sodomite flag.”
Authorities say Svoboda has had a history of similar confrontations over the display of rainbow Pride flags, and with members of the LGBTQ community, throughout the Pacific Northwest.
In May 2015, he was arrested in Portland, Oregon, for scaling the side of the Silverado, a gay bar, so he could take the rainbow flag off the roof. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of third-degree theft, according to The Oregonian.
In 2016, while driving a cab, he stopped his car outside Scandals, a gay bar in Portland, pulled a bullhorn out of his trunk and began preaching against homosexuals, according to media reports. He was later fired by the cab company.
He would return to Scandals more than a year later on July 26, 2017 — the same day that President Trump announced his intent to ban transgender individuals form the U.S. military — and began harassing patrons, according to local news reports.
According to The Leader, Svoboda has previously been arrested on various occasions, facing charges of harassment, intimidation, disorderly conduct, forgery, assault, theft, and driving violations.
Bainbridge police also downloaded videos from Svoboda’s Facebook page, in which he talks about being fired from two jobs after confronting people about their sexuality, and saved his candidate statement from his run for office, in which he claims he does not support “special rights for women, people of color, homosexuals and those that wish to misrepresent their gender, tribes, and illegal aliens and anyone else that believes they deserve special rights.”
Rev. Cindy Roberts, of Seabold United Methodist Church, said that the flag has been stolen in the past, and the newest one was raised after the community pooled resources to buy a new one. She says the flag is on display because the church is a “reconciling congregation,” meaning it is more affirming of LGBTQ members.
“That is something the church itself has decided to promote within the denomination and as a justice issue” Roberts said. “We wanted to do something to let the greater community know that that was a justice issue for us.”
Roberts said she decided to press charges against Svoboda in the hope of making him take responsibility for his actions. She added that she plans to send him a letter explaining why his actions may have been upsetting or even traumatizing to some of the church’s LGBTQ members.
“Clearly he has a history and we happened to be one of his historical victims, for lack of a better term,” Roberts said. “Somebody needs to get him headed toward reconciliation.”
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