AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – [UPDATE] A day after church leaders discovered graffiti at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, some of which was anti-Semitic, one local Jewish leader says it’s a wake-up call to the people of Augusta.
NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Flete spoke to Nathan Jolles, a board member of the Jewish Museum of Augusta who says he is not surprised by this act.
“If it happens to one of us, it can happen to all of us and so I think it is very important that we speak out. Silence is not an option,” says Jolles.
Although the Unitarian Universalist Church is open to all religions, Jolles says the church does share some of the same beliefs with Judaism. Still, he says he doesn’t have a clear idea as to why someone would spray-paint the Star of David with a line through it on the walls of the church.
Jolles tells Newschannel 6 it’s important that members of both religions unite against these type of hate crimes.
“If you don’t remember the past, you are doomed to repeat it and I think it’s very important that we stand together,” says Jolles.
Georgia is one of four states that does not have hate-crime laws. South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming are the other states on that list. In 2004, the US Supreme court overturned a law that would have brought Georgia in line with federal hate crime laws.
House Bill 426- is a bill that would strengthen penalties for people convicted of hate crimes is making its way through the state legislature. It’s expected to be voted on in 2020.
Jolles says it’s time lawmakers to make changes.
“But certainly I think the legislation is very much worth looking at. I would appeal to our local legislative delegation in Atlanta, to take the lead on this to speak out and to make a difference,” says Jolles.
The Unitarian Universalist Church is known to be a liberal religious voice in the community. The President of the church, Andy Resse says this can be scary for some.
“Our bedrock principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person, no exceptions,” says Resse.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta (UUCA) experienced an act of vandalism to their church. A diverse group of people walk through the doors of UUCA, every Sunday morning. It’s a place for everyone.
NewsChannel 6’s Reporter Ashley Flete spoke to Andy Reese, the President of the church. Reese says their acceptance is scary to some.
“We are a liberal, religious voice in this community and we are known for that. There are people that that frightens,” says Reese.
Frightens enough to the point of vandalizing the church because of its beliefs and practices. In white spray paint are the words “God will not be mocked.”
Rev Donald Cameron is the Minister at the UUCA. He shares his thoughts about such extent.
“I’m very encouraged about what I heard with this congregation. I think we will be fine and I also think that a lot of people express concern for the people who did this and not in a negative way,” says Rev Donald Cameron.
“Is this the first time that something like this happens to you guys?“
“It is. Members of this church were the founders of the first integrated kindergarten in Augusta, back 50 years ago, and they used to meet here and we got death threats and bomb threats at that time,” responded Reese.
There are no details as to who could have done this but Rev Donald Cameron says he does know one important detail.
“Do you guys have cameras?“
“We do but we weren’t able to catch it because of the street light and the glare but it happened late at night,” says Rev Donald Cameron.
Rev. Cameron says he hopes the children will learn something from this experience.
“To be blindly judgmental is not a good thing. You should always reach out to your neighbor and try to find out where he or she are coming from and try to understand. What I’m advocating is the opposite of what our culture is engaged in,” mentions Rev. Cameron.
Pushing the famous saying: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
“We are concerned for the person that did it. We would like to invite them to come here, not confessing but to come here and actually come to our services and see who we are,” says the Minister.
He says given the symbol of choice, those involved in this act do not have a clear understanding of what the Unitarian Universalist Church stands for.
“The anti-Jewish signs have really nothing to do with us. So why did they conflate those two things with us?” questions Reese.
Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to keep you updated on the latest as soon as more information is available.