A Clarendon gay couple believes hateful vandalism found on their home's front porch is linked to an anti-gay article written by a local minister.
Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers said they woke up on Monday morning to find their front porch painted with a gay slur along with a death threat.
"It was a nice message painted on our front porch right in front of our door," Harrison said. "The message says 'leave or die fags.'"
Harrison and Jeffers said they immediately reported the vandalism to the police. Donley County Sheriff Charles "Butch" Blackburn said his department is investigating the crime.
"I consider it a hate crime," Blackburn said.
Harrison and Jeffers said they have been together as a couple for about a year and a half and the vandalism on their front porch has made them scared for their lives.
"I'm absolutely terrified because if there are people in this town that are willing to go to the lengths to vandalize our house and to scare us, they they might be going the lengths to do physical harm on us," Harrison said.
Equality Texas , an advocacy group that lobbies for the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, said the couple should not have to live in fear.
"Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers should not have to live in fear in their own home simply because of their sexual orientation ," Interim Executive Director Chuck Smith said. " No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. "
Governor Rick Perry signed into law a hate crime bill in 2001. The bill strengthened penalties for offenses against minorities, gays and others. In a 2007 Crime in Texas report, sexual orientation accounted for nearly 20 percent of hate crimes in the state.
The couple said that after a newspaper advertisement ran in late September, residents started treating them differently.
"It's funny that two weeks after this article comes out in the newspaper that people in town are starting to be rude to us and then we get out front porch vandalized," Harrison said.
According to Equality Texas, there is a direct link from homophobia to violence.
"Clarendon Church of Christ Pastor Chris Moore is entitled to his own beliefs, and his freedom of speech is protected by the United States Constitution," Smith said. "However, it is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence."
In the ad, Moore used the National Coalition of Gay Organizations as his source. A Pronews 7 investigation found virtually no information on the coalition other than it was a convention from 1972 -- 40 years ago.
The ad listed seven bullet points that warn residents about the homosexual movement, including a line that said "Folks, don't be fooled, the 'gay' agenda isn't about 'equal' rights for gay couples. Their agenda would force everyone to compromise their values, make our children legal prey for pedofiles."Click here to read the entire advertisement.
Pastor Moore said his advertisement was factual but he does not defend the crime on Joshua and Jeremy.
"What I wrote was facts and if I wrote something that wasn't factual - I would gladly fix it," he said. "I don't condone that type of behavior. It is un-Christian to vandalize or be violent to anybody."
Joshua and Jeremy said they are now looking at the possibility of moving away from Clarendon.
"We are trying to leave," Harrison said.
"It's sad," Jeffers added. "For the first time in my life, I have never felt this scared."RAW, uncut interviews of the couple and the Clarendon Church of Christ Pastor.