Belvidere church vandalized with racial slur

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- At least two instances of vandalism with racially charged messages were found in parts of Belvidere Tuesday morning.

One of the messages was spray-painted below the Zion Lutheran Church sign located in the 1300 block of Pearl St. A church staff member called police around 4:30 a.m. after he noticed a swastika and racial slur were painted on the front of the building facing Pearl St.

Police received another report of a racial slur spray-painted on the side of a vehicle in the 1200 block of Ninth Avenue. Police Chief Shane Woody doesn't believe the church was targeted. Detectives are collecting evidence and ask anyone in the area who may have seen something or may have surveillance video to come forward.

Pastor Scott Stolberg of Zion Lutheran Church says this isn't the first time the church has experienced graffiti.

"There's somebody that's hurting out there. Somebody that has some anger and hate built up inside and they needed to express that somehow and it came out in the worst possible way. So, my hope is that people will pray for this person," says Stolberg.

Pastor Stolberg says several community leaders have reached out to him asking how they can help, even donating supplies to help remove the graffiti.

Jeffrey Clements, the Bishop for the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod, also visited the church Tuesday afternoon offering words of support. "The ELCA stands for the inclusion of everyone," says Clements.

Belvidere Police ask that anyone with information call the Boone County Crime Stoppers at 815-547-7867. No arrests have been made.

Zion Lutheran Church will also be hosting a free community meal on Wednesday, July 11. Everyone is welcome to attend. Pastor Stolberg says several members of the community will be attending this month's meal to show support.