Hateful church van graffiti inspires confusion, members ready to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hateful church van graffiti inspires confusion, members ready to forgive

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Vandals brought hate to a house of God in Jeffersonville and the message tagged on the side of a church bus is forcing members to practice what they preach now more than ever.

We can't show you what the message said, though the members of Bethel A.M.E. can tell you how it made them feel.

"Very disheartened," said Rev. Sheiler Stokes, the pastor.

"It's discouraging, yeah, yeah," said Frank Baines, a church trustee.

This weekend, someone tagged the n-word and other foul language on the side of the church van. It's stained in permanent marker above the church logo.

Baines says he's disappointed by the culprit's decision.

"Why us?" he asked.

It comes just two weeks after someone busted out a window on the same church vehicle.

"We're supposed to be the good folks," Baines said.

It's just as troubling for Pastor Stokes

"We've been at this location for 50 years," he said. "We've never had anything like this."

Bethel A.M.E. planted roots in Jeffersonville back in 1842. Pastor Stokes says it stood through slavery, separate-but-equal and the height of the civil rights movement, yet in 2014 saw its first hate crime.

"Actually seeing it for yourself and wondering why would anyone do that...what is the purpose?" he asked. "What are they trying to prove?"

Church members noticed the markings Saturday evening after a ceremony celebrating Stokes' seventh anniversary as pastor. She says she has no idea who did it.

"We've always been a respected member of this community," Stokes said.

The church had a security light shining down on the parking lot, but trustees took it down earlier this summer because it stopped working. After this incident, surveillance has become a top priority.

Police arrived on the scene as our camera was rolling, but there have been no arrests or leads this early in the investigation.

"We love the one that wrote it," Baines said. "Come here and let us talk about it. If you don't like us for whatever reason, we'll change your mind, hopefully, through God's grace."

Leaders say the van is staying parked in the church lot until the message is erased. The members have their own message for whosoever responsible.

"We teach forgiveness," Stokes said.

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