In the past week, a Baltimore woman has captured headlines, and over $40,000 in donations, over her claim that a Christian neighbor anonymously attacked her “relentlessly gay” yard decorations. But circumstantial evidence exists that suggests the incident could be a hoax to defraud people of their money.
The story, as reported in The Baltimore Sun and numerous other publications since, goes as follows: Julie Baker, a widowed mother of four, decorated her property with a row of rainbow-colored mason jars containing letters that spell out the words “love” and “ohana” (“family” in Hawaiian). This display supposedly stoked the wrath of a neighbor, who apparently left an anonymous note in her door reading as follows:
“Dear Resident of [redacted] Avenue,
Your yard is becoming Relentlessly Gay! Myself and Others in the neighborhood ask that you Tone It Down. This is a Christian area and there are Children. Keep it up and I will be Forced to call the Police on You! Your kind need to have respect for GOD.
A Concerned Home Owner.”
On the basis of this note, Baker set up a GoFundMe page dedicated to the cause of making her home “even More ‘Relentlessly Gay!'” by painting more rainbows everywhere. Baker’s note was shared with former Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei on Facebook, after which it swiftly went viral. By the time donations were closed on the evening of June 22, Baker had collected $43,436 from 3,331 donors, far more than the initial $5,000 she asked for. Some donors gave her $100 or more.
Despite Baker’s success, there are numerous red flags that raise questions about the authenticity of her note:
- Most notably, both Baker and her supposed piece of hate mail show an eccentric approach to capitalization. The hate note incorrectly capitalizes words such as “others,” “children,” and “forced.” Similarly, Baker’s GoFundMe capitalizes words such as “home” and “relent.” This appears to be a long-term habit of Baker’s, as astute Internet observers have found old posts Baker has made on Facebook which show her repeatedly engaging in this sort of eccentric capitalization.
- Certain aspects of the note, such as the all-caps spelling of “GOD,” the description of the neighborhood as a “Christian area,” and the venomous use of “your kind” all seem like played out cliche phrases a standard Christian bigot might say. Baker’s Facebook account shows numerous instances of her criticizing Christians for their positions on gay marriage, abortion, and other hot-button issues.
- Despite asking for thousands of dollars, Baker has remained very vague on how the money is supposed to be spent, besides that she plans to paint her house in rainbow colors. She hasn’t mentioned what plans, if any, she has for the (likely large) amount of money she will probably have left over.
- In a local write-up of the story, it is revealed that Baker lives on Kenwood Avenue in Baltimore and that she thinks members of a nearby Presbyterian church may be engaging in long-running harassment of her, including a threat to burn down her house. The only Presbyterian church on Kenwood Avenue is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), a mainline Protestant branch that recognizes gay marriage. The church’s website also explicitly mentions welcoming those of diverse sexualities.
- Baker apparently moved quickly to market herself on the basis of this incident, as well as promote artwork using the “Relentlessly Gay” motif. By the early hours of June 18, only two days after the GoFundMe went up, Baker launched the website RelentlesslyGay.com, which engages in heavy self-promotion. One page praises Baker in a dramatic way: “From her happy baskets (surprise baskets overflowing with thoughtful treats that she hand-delivers to friends going through hard times or just having an epically bad day) to her being that ‘3am friend’ who’s always there on the phone or in person, even if you’re a state away, Julie is an exceptional human being.”
If the attack on Baker really is a hoax, it would hardly be a brand new phenomenon. In 2013, waitress and former Marine Dayna Morales was first a martyr, and then a villain after she was found to have faked a receipt that stiffer her on a tip for being gay.
In response to doubts that have been expressed online, Baker stopped accepting donations Monday and pledged to prove the note is real
“On a sadder note, the world is filled with hate and fear, as such I want to work to remove any doubt about the authenticity of the letter,” she wrote in a status update posted Monday night. “Until then I am not taking a dime out of this account. Please carry on with flooding the world with rainbows and joy, be relentlessly generous, be relentlessly compassionate, be relentlessly vibrant and stay relentlessly gay.” Just how the note might be authenticated as a genuine attack is not clear.
Notably, this update is devoid of the unusual capitalization Baker has shown previously.
Just hours later, though, sometime on June 23, the GoFundMe page was taken down entirely, with no explanation given.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Baker for comment, but has not yet received a reply.
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