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US: Campus ministry at Virginia Tech had its Pride flag stolen, replaced with Confederate flag

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The Wesley Center, a United Methodist campus ministry at Virginia Tech, has one main goal – to make all students not only feel welcomed but affirmed in who they are. That's why for years, the Pride flag has hung on the ministry building.

That was until last Saturday when the LGBTQ symbol was stolen and replaced by a Confederate flag, campus minister Bret Gresham said.

In the span of two weeks, the ministry's Pride flag has been stolen three times, and each time Gresham had it replaced.

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The placement of the Confederate flag made students feel "sad and scared," and Gresham reported the incident to the local police department.

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"We just wanted to notify police that this happened but also that people should respect and support our students, their identifies and beliefs," Gresham told USA TODAY. "We've had the Pride flag up for years and it will continue to stay there, even after it's stolen."

a large colorful umbrella: Jun 21, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; A general view of a Pride flag outside of CenturyLink Field prior to the game between the Seattle Sounders FC and Orlando City SC. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports © Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports Jun 21, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; A general view of a Pride flag outside of CenturyLink Field prior to the game between the Seattle Sounders FC and Orlando City SC. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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The Blacksburg Police Department confirmed it received a larceny report from the ministry and a criminal investigation is underway.

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Crystal Stewart, a Virginia Tech sophomore who identifies as queer and uses they/them pronouns, said they've always appreciated The Wesley's Center outspoken support for the LGBTQ community. Stewart said while most religious organizations reject LGBTQ members, The Wesley Center is the first church that felt like home.

The placement of the Confederate flag felt like it targeted not only queer but Black and brown members of the ministry, Stewart said.

Gresham agreed, he said he hopes the investigation brings justice to the hurt students.

"Hate won't win, they can tear down the Pride flag all they want but we belong. We belong in the church, in the world, everywhere and The Wesley Center supports that," Stewart told USA TODAY. "Bringing down the flag won't bring us down too."

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Campus ministry at Virginia Tech had its Pride flag stolen, replaced with Confederate flag

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