Vandals spray-painted "House of the Devil" on a wall, defecated on the pulpit and broke every stained-glass window at a church in North Carolina — the worst-hit of several churches that were vandalized in the area.
The Anson County and Stanly County sheriff’s offices along with the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the string of vandalism, which occurred early Monday, NBC station WCNC in Charlotte reported.
The hardest-hit church — Cedar Hill AME Zion Church in Ansonville east of Charlotte — was in ruins Monday night as Ansonville Volunteer Fire Fighters and church elders tried to clean up a mess so devastating it left many church members in tears.
Spray painted on the building were phrases “God is a lie” and “House of the Devil,” as well as racial slurs and swastikas. The church's congregation is predominantly black.
Inside the church, vandals defecated on the pulpit, tore out air conditioning units, broke every stained-glass window and left water running in the building. They also tried to burn a cross on the front lawn of the historical church.
“They tore up our building but they didn’t take our spirit,” said Rev. Renee Bethea, the pastor at Cedar Hill in rural northern Anson County since July.
She cried as she told of a child’s tombstone that had been thrown through a church window. Bethea asked members not to bring children to the church to see the devastation, saying it is too upsetting for young people.
By nightfall, crews had boarded up all of the windows at the church and taped off areas too dangerous to walk through. The church is on a one-mile stretch of road with only a few other buildings.
Cedar Hill was not the only church that vandals hit in the area on Monday. In the southern part of neighboring Stanly County, investigators said several other churches were vandalized. Police told NewsChannel 36 that none of those churches had been broken into, but were vandalized from outside.
One of those churches is Faith Baptist Church in Oakboro. Graphic images and "666" were spray painted on the outside of the church. One church member was taking pictures Tuesday morning for the insurance adjuster. He said the entire outer wall may have to be power washed and repainted.
Police do not have any suspects and are hoping anyone with information will come forward.