A pride flag once again flies above a Los Olivos church — and many other locations in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The previous flag became the target of vandals accused of stealing and burning it July 28, apparently recording the actions and posting the video on social media. Other pride flags also went missing in the valley.
A ceremony Wednesday morning at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church celebrated a new flag’s installation — and placement of multiple rainbow banners throughout Los Olivos and beyond in solidarity.
The Rev. Randall Day, pastor for St. Mark’s, led those in attendance in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, urging them to take note of the final three words — “justice for all.”
Dozens of people gathered for the midday ceremony, where speakers included Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann; Chris Brown, pastor at Bethania Lutheran Church; and representatives of Santa Ynez Valley Pride and the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community.
Hartmann spoke out against the hateful act, saying it’s hurtful to members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as those who stand in solidarity with them.
“It creates a chilling effect, a hostile environment instead of a friendly, open-hearted one for all of us. It divides us …,” she said. “It undermines trust and a sense of well-being that we are all in this valley together, supportive of one another, able to count on one another.”
Kiel Cavalli of Rainbow House Inc. recalled the difficulty of growing up different in the Santa Ynez Valley. He called upon community members to help beyond the flag-raising ceremony.
“This is going to require work and effort and commitment,” he said. “That commitment involves being willing to have and starting those conversations about tolerance, equality and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community … . That commitment goes beyond today. That commitment is a life spent creating change for our children and the children of tomorrow.”
The incidents were investigated by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies who recommended hate crime and theft charges. However, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office said this week that the investigation into the incidents was continuing, which isn’t unusual for criminal cases.
“We have not made a filing decision as the case is still under investigation,” according to a District Attorney’s Office representative, adding that they were awaiting the completion of the investigation.