A ‘real life Mister Rogers’ hung a rainbow outside his home for Pride. A homophobic neighbour told him he ‘shamed the community’

Emma Powys Maurice June 23, 2020
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The homophobic sign posted on the door of Ken Oliver's home and art studio (14 News)

An Indiana business owner woke up to a message of homophobic hate on his front door after displaying a rainbow flag for Pride month.

Ken Oliver hung the Pride flag outside his home and art studio in the town of Newburgh, Indiana, where he creates paintings and crafts to sell online.

He noted that other local business owners had done the same — but he was the only one who got a hateful note taped to his door the next day.

“The rainbow is a sign of God’s promise, not a symbol of man’s perversion,” it read. “You shame Newburgh.”

Oliver was shocked to see such blatant homophobia from the town he grew up in.

“I got singled out,” he told the Courier & Press. “They have no clue about who I am or how I live, and they’re assuming that I’m an un-Godly person and I’m shameful. It’s not true, and it’s not right.

“There’s no place for that kind of hate in our world anymore. I’m surprised. It’s saddening to me because we’re better than this.”

Neighbouring business owner Amber Perkins told 14 News that Oliver is like a “real life Mister Rogers” in the town.

Ken Oliver has left the homophobic note on his door to show people “what hate looks like” (Screenshot: 14 News)

“I was emotional, he was emotional. Nothing like this has ever happened [before] and Ken is the last person I would expect this to happen to,” she said.

“For him to come out to that this morning, it breaks my heart. It makes me angry and it breaks my heart, both.”

She responded by decking her store out in Pride colours, while Oliver has decided to leave the note there so that others can see “what hate looks like”.

“It’s going to make me stronger, because right now in our community, we can have a conversation about diversity [and] inclusivity, we can have a conversation now because someone gave us an opportunity,” he said.

Although it’s a troubling reminder that homophobia still exists in his town, he’s reassured by the number of locals who have reached out to him lending their support, and hopes it can be a catalyst for change.

The Newburgh Police Department is looking into the incident.


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