August 26, 2023—For over 70 years, the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Norwich has been a peaceful, law-abiding church community in Oxford County. We, as a church, as well as our members, have had a respected and overwhelming positive relationship with other Norwich residents. Despite this 70-year history, our congregation has, for the past several months, been the subject of harassment, vandalism, and relentlessly negative press reports seeking to portray our community as a “nefarious” (Global News) influence in Norwich Township.
This is due to a decision by the Norwich town council to implement a bylaw stipulating the neutrality of township flagpoles, over which we had no control. It was passed by a vote of council, not a public referendum.
This coverage—including extensive articles by Global News, CTV, and the CBC—has contributed to the targeting of our church. Our church was vandalized with spray-painted graffiti, and for several months a number of women have been standing outside of our church prior to morning services topless, some with hateful signs. The person who began this protest has indicated to the press that she intends to continue exposing herself to families attending church services, in order (for them) to put pressure on the Norwich Township council over the recent bylaw (which is in no way the purpose of the church). Families with children are being targeted with weaponized, indecent exposure for political ends.
In many instances throughout the media coverage, reporters sought to associate our church with theft, vandalism, and other criminal behaviour with innuendo that borders on journalistic malpractice. We condemn all such behaviour unequivocally and consider theft and destruction of property to be sinful. It is unacceptable that our community, which simply wishes to worship in peace and be left alone, is being painted in this way for the purposes of a political agenda.
This situation is deeply upsetting to many families and grieving to us as a church, particularly the weaponized public indecency. We stand in judgment over nobody—we are all sinners in need of grace (Luke 5:31-32)—but this behaviour is unacceptable by any standard. We have been grateful for the many messages of support we have received from the Norwich community at large during this time. This includes the collective recognition that these protests are totally inappropriate and are being conducted in this way with the intent to deliberately offend and harass our members, due to their Christian beliefs.