COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Authorities in a rural Mississippi county are stunned and perplexed after finding a tiny, isolated church vandalized with abortion rights slogans.
“It’s mystifying, you know?” said St. Elmore Armistad, a deacon at Mt. Avery Missionary Baptist Church in southeastern Lowndes County.
The graffiti include “Keep your laws off my body” and “Girls just want to have fundamental human rights.”
They don't have anything to do with the church, where about five people regularly attend services, Armistad told The Commercial Dispatch.
“We don’t preach abortion,” he said. “We preach Jesus Christ. It just don’t add up.”
Armistad, 73, said everything was fine on Sunday. He went to the church Monday afternoon and the sides and back of the brick and wood building were covered by graffiti in black, pale blue and pink.
“Why us? That’s the first thing I wondered,” he said. “You hear about things like that happening other places, but you don’t get a grip on it until it happens to you.”
Lowndes County Sheriff Eddie Hawkins characterized the vandalism as “odd,” noting that the church, east of Columbus near the Alabama line, was in the middle of nowhere on a road that sees little traffic.
He said investigators are seeking suspects on what will likely be a vandalism charge. Whether it will be a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the estimated amount of the damage, which Hawkins said he doesn’t have yet.
“Why there?” he said. “Why that church? Why use that to send a message?”
Armistad said he believes the church was chosen because it is so isolated.
“I think they picked us because they knew they could get away with it,” he said. “There’s nobody close by to kind of keep an eye on things.”
Hawkins asked anyone with information about the vandalism to contact his office or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers.
Armistad said, “We’re trying to find out what it will take to get rid of it. It’s in different colors, and on the wood and the brick, too.”