Influential evangelical group that opposes LGBT+ rights vandalised after Colorado Springs mass shooting

A sign on the property of the Colorado-based evangelical organisation Focus on the Family was vandalised with graffiti reading “blood is on your hands” and “fives lives taken,” an apparent reference to a mass shooting inside a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub that left five dead and injured 18 others.

The graffiti was covered with large sheets of plastic and cardboard on Thursday afternoon.

It comes as a shocked Colorado Springs grieves the loss of five people – Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump and Ashley Paugh – after a person armed with an AR-style rifle fired into Club Q just before midnight on 19 November.

A statement from a group claiming responsibility for the vandalism, shared by a Twitter account called colorado peoples press, said “we chose to proceed with this action because of the incredible violence that Focus on the Family continues to perpetuate” against the LGBT+ community.

“These [five] individuals gathered at Club Q with friends and loved ones, new and old, to be in community and to grieve all the lives lost to transphobia,” the statement adds, calling the mass shooting an “act of hate”.

“It is no accident that this happened in Colorado Springs, a city steeped in homophobia, transphobia, and white supremacy,” the statement continues. “It is no surprise that someone did this in the city that is home to such a hateful organization as Focus on the Family.”

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“It is important to us that you understand why Focus on the Family must be held accountable for the ramifications of their hateful theology,” the statement adds, pointing to the organisation’s support for legislation targeting transgender people, its “falsified research” and support for so-called conversation therapy.

A suspect, who was reportedly tackled by club patrons before police arrived, remains jailed without bond.

Law enforcement agencies have not revealed Anderson Lee Aldrich’s alleged motive, but the club’s owners and LGBT+ advocates have condemned a surge of inflammatory anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric and politicised harassment from right-wing and religious figures and Republican officials in the weeks and months that preceded the attack.

Over the last several decades, Focus on the Family – which is based in Colorado Springs – has developed into a nationally recognised, well-financed and influential conservative Christian ministry that has lobbied against LGBT+ rights and characterised LGBT+ identities as “a particularly evil lie of Satan.”

The Human Rights Campaign reports that the “organisation and its leaders continue to promote many dangerous ideas, practices and programs that cause real harm to LGBT+ people and their families”.

Focus on the Family is also listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center among Christian ministries and lobbying groups that comprise the “hard core of the anti-gay movement” and a primary driver of the “religious right’s anti-gay crusade.”

The group has condemned the Club Q attack and urged prayer for “peace” as well as for whomever was responsible for the “mischievous and unwarranted defacing” of the property.

“We recognize the community is hurting in the aftermath of the reckless and violent actions of a very disturbed individual. This is a time for prayer, grieving and healing, not vandalism and the spreading of hate,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said in a statement shared with The Independent.

“Focus on the Family is privileged to be one of many organizations in our city positioned to help and support the needs of struggling individuals and families,” he continued. “The families of the five individuals killed in Saturday night’s senseless attack are in our prayers. We urge everyone to pray for peace and we also pray for the individual or group responsible for this mischievous and unwarranted defacing of our ministry’s property.”