GASTONIA, N.C. – A Gastonia pastor said he can forgive whoever it was who vandalized his church and then attempted to burn it to the ground.
"I was saddened by it," said Rev. Marshall Owens, pastor of Friendly Baptist Church on Rhyne Street in Gastonia.
Sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning someone scrawled words and drawings that were profane and in some cases racist in nature. A memorial slab with the Ten Commandments was smashed and kicked over.
Then an attempt was made to set the siding of the church on fire.
In the door to the churh, investigators found a folded piece of paper. On it was written, "Your God can not stop me."
Overall, damage estimates are roughly $2,300, including $1,500 for the profanity on the doors and walls outside the church.
"I was real disappointed because people really disrespected God's house," said Owens.
The pastor believes it was all the work of neighborhood teenagers but Gastonia police are not treating it as a kid's prank.
"The incident is under investigation as an arson. Arson is a felony. It is a very serious crime," said Gastonia Police spokesperson Donna Lahser.
As upset as the pastor and church members are at what happened, Owens said he would like to talk to whoever did it and his message would be one of forgiveness.
"I'd just tell them how much that God loves them and how much the church loves them," said Owens.
If anyone has any information, they are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.