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Spray-Painted Islamic Phrase, Swastika and a Small Fire Were Discovered at a Christian Church in Florida — and Now Police Are Investigating


"I'm preaching God is love — why would someone take the time to put a sign up to show hatred?"

Authorities continue to investigate vandalism at a Florida church after a fire was set and the words "Allahu Akbar" were spray painted on the property early Monday morning.

Police discovered the small blaze at New Shiloh Christian Church in Melbourne, Florida, on Monday around 2:30 a.m. after an alarm sounded. The fire was contained to a storage unit on the property and did not spread to the main building or sanctuary, according to WKMG-TV.

In addition to "Allahu akbar" — an Islamic phrase that means "God is great" — police found a swastika on the property, the words "We See U" and "crude anatomical references," according to a Melbourne Police Department press release.

Bishop Jacquelyn Gordon, the faith leader at New Shiloh, said that she was told that the actions constitute a hate crime, though Melbourne police later said that it was all an act of "juvenile vandalism."

"They told us that this is definitely a hate crime and that they're going to patrol our area even more and just look out for us and they thought it was senseless and I feel the same way," Gordon told WKMG-TV. "It really took a lot out of me when I drove up and I saw that sign on the side of the building because I'm preaching God is love, why would someone take the time to put a sign up to show hatred."

Lt. Cheryl Trainer told the outlet, though, that the spray painted messages did not target any group in particular.

"The indication is juvenile-type graffiti. It ranges in style from sort of an anime theme, to swastikas, to crude anatomical references," she said. "It's across the map and it doesn't depict any particular motivation or bias against a particular group."

A police statement issued Wednesday affirmed this sentiment, also calling the crime an "incident of localized juvenile vandalism."

Gordon told the Christian Post that damages to church property were around $5,000 and that leaders at the house of worship are trusting police to investigate what unfolded.


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