Bomb explodes at homophobic hate group masquerading as a church: ‘The whole earth shook’
The First Works Baptist Church in LA, California, labelled a hate group for its anti-LGBT+ teachings, has been bombed.
The FBI are investigating after a bomb exploded at the controversial Los Angeles church that had been accused of anti-LGBT+ hate speech.
Police and fire crews were called to the First Works Baptist Church in El Monte shortly after 1.00am on Saturday (23 January) following reports of an explosion.
Authorities found the windows blown out by the force of the blast, which they believe was caused by an improvised explosive device. The outer walls were also graffitied with the words “get out”, police said.
Smartphone footage taken in the aftermath shows smoke pouring out of the single-story building. “They threw like a bomb or something,” a bystander is heard saying. “The whole f**king earth shook. This is crazy.”
Fortunately no one was injured in the attack, which came weeks after the church received an arson threat on social media.
“Although we do not yet know the motive, I am aware of the anti-LGBTQ+ and misogynist sermons given by the pastor of First Works Baptist Church,” LA county supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement.
The church is led by the infamous pastor Bruce Mejia, whose extreme homophobic teachings have caused the Southern Poverty Law Center to label the church a hate group.
An acolyte of the “death to gays” preacher Steven Anderson, Mejia is known for his anti-LGBT+ sermons calling on the government to execute homosexuals, whom he condemns as “abominations”.
He has also called women “weak,” denounced Jewish people, and said Black Lives Matter had a “wicked agenda,” according to The New York Times.
His hateful rhetoric has made First Works Baptist Church a frequent target of community protests, with more than 15,000 people petitioning El Monte’s mayor to recognise the church as a hate group and “take them out of our city”.
But the group behind the protests, Keep El Monte Friendly, has distanced itself from the attack and reiterated that it does not condone violence.
“We are in profound shock and hope that no one was hurt during this tragedy,” the group said in a statement posted to Instagram.
“Our movement was intended to bring light and awareness to the hateful rhetoric taught by this group. We understand that what they preach can make people upset. However, we would never promote, encourage or condone any violence or acts of harm.”
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the agency is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
“Anytime a house of worship is attacked, we will respond,” Eimiller said. “If it was motivated in any way by hate, that’s always a working theory when a house of worship is attacked, although that has not been confirmed.”
“In no way can we say anyone related to the demonstrations is involved or responsible for this crime,” added El Monte police chief David Reynoso.