Rev. Kent Gilbert called the slashing of the Black Lives Matter sign at Union Church "an unfortunate incident," leaving him with a feeling of disappointment.

"Disappointment that it would attract somebody's violence, thankfully, a minor violent act," he said, "but it's still violent to slash through a sign. I'm saddened that someone would feel that way, saddened that it happened on the grounds of a church property."

The sign was intact Tuesday morning, and Gilbert was notified about it being slashed around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

It has only been on the church property for about four days,

"The church council, after prayer and deliberation, voted to support the movement, the inclusion of all persons, and to protect Black and Brown families, as we have done since 1853. We voted to endorse the Black Lives Matter movement in Madison County."

Berea's Union Church was originally founded by Rev. John G. Fee of Bracken County, who was invited by citizens and Cassius M. Clay, who projected an anti-slavery community at the church.

Gilbert said in his 23 years of being pastor of the church and continuing the message of inclusivity, no other signs that he's aware of have been vandalized.

"This is the only time we've had a stance of the church or the openness of the church marked by vandalism," he said.

However, it's not the first time he's put up a controversial sign. He's also been vocal about LGBTQ+ rights, and the church has had signs about that in its yard before.

He added he's not sure that the sign was slashed because of its message and stressed he doesn't know any of the circumstances surrounding the vandalism.

"For all we know, it was a 12-year-old with a boxcutter who this sign was the first thing they found to cut," he said.

But the other two signs right next to the Black Lives Matter one were untouched, so he said it's possible the vandalism was motivated by what the sign represents.

"We've been trained as white-skinned people that our comfort is more important than other people's comfort," he said. "There's four hundred years of brain-washing that being white-skinned is to be better. Any challenge to white-skinned privilege, white-skinned preferences, immediately brings up much stronger than called for responses."

Gilbert said once he was made aware of the vandalism, police were called.

"They were very helpful and came right away and took pictures," he said.

Amanda Chitwood, public information officer with the Berea Police Department, said Tuesday afternoon that officers had not found any witnesses. Police estimate that $100 of damage was done, which could be prosecuted as a third-degree criminal mischief charge.

The church sits on Berea College's campus, which has video surveillance throughout, but police had not found any of the incident as of Tuesday evening.

However, neither the vandalism nor the lack of witnesses and video has discouraged Gilbert.

"We are not going to let a few rips in a banner silence either our hearts or our voices," he said. "We've duct-taped this one, and we've already ordered a new one."

Gilbert added that no one has approached him personally about being uncomfortable because of the sign.

"Our prayers are with all to create a just society," he said. "That's what we want. We do so because of our faith."

Anyone who has information about the church sign's vandalism is asked to call Berea police officer Chris Whicker at 859-624-4776.

The BLM sign is not the only one that's been reported as vandalized recently in Berea as one of Donald Trump's campaign signs was also recently damaged, according to a caller to The Register newsroom.

Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.

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