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Historic Black Church Devastated By Vandalism Designated as Hate Crime

By Josh Shepherd
vandalism hate crime
Fowler United Methodist Church in Annapolis, Md., suffered more than $100,000 in damages, after an incident of vandalism and burglary. (Photo via Facebook)

Vandals ripped pages from Bibles and hymnals, tore a cross from a wall, and caused more than $100,000 in damage in what is being considered a hate crime at a historic Black church in the capital city of Maryland.

Anne Arundel County Police Department released details of the June 9 criminal incident at Fowler United Methodist Church in Annapolis, a majority Black congregation founded in 1871. Police spokesperson Marc Limansky confirmed to The Roys Report (TRR) that police are investigating the case as a high-dollar burglary, vandalism, and hate crime.

Officers who responded to a report of burglary at the church found broken windows; a large wooden cross taken down from behind the pulpit and cracked; and “anointing oil poured into electrical (sockets)” in the church sanctuary, according to a local news report

The perpetrator ripped out “every page from every hymnal and Bible,” said Rev. Jerome Jones, pastor at the church since summer 2021. Audio equipment cords were cut, the sound mixer damaged, and five televisions used to increase accessibility for parishioners were smashed. 

Jones noted that all the destroyed and damaged resources were used to convey the Gospel message to people. “They did not want us to be able to communicate at all, to talk about Jesus Christ,” he said. 

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The perpetrator also ransacked Jones’ office, smashing frames holding his academic degrees and pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr., along with other prominent Black leaders. 

According to Maryland law, any property damage of a religious entity is considered a hate crime. 

Dozens of congregants, including the church’s Board of Trustees, participated in the clean-up effort. Subsequently, leaders of nearby Eastport United Methodist Church provided audio equipment for the Annapolis church, and other churches sent hymnals and Bibles. 

A picture of Maryland Governor Wes Moore which hung at Fowler United Methodist Church was also defaced, according to reports. Moore had addressed the congregation on February 26, only weeks after he was inaugurated as the state’s first Black governor. 

“I’m very troubled to learn of the vandalism that has taken place at Fowler United Methodist Church,” said Governor Moore in a statement to media. “The church is a beautiful and diverse part of the community, and our sacred spaces deserve respect and veneration.”

jerome jones hate crime
Rev. Jerome Jones (Video screengrab)

Moore added that he believed Reverend Jones would “reinforce faith and spread good will in the community as worshippers continue to cope with this difficult time.”

The church has reportedly applied for a grant with the state’s newly created Protecting Against Hate Crimes Program. Eligible nonprofits and faith groups targeted for hate crimes can apply for public funds to enhance security. 

Two days after the Friday break-in, church members gathered for Sunday worship service—where they said a prayer for the perpetrators, according to their pastor. “It was so hard, but it was so important because God is not the author of fear,” Jones said. “We walk in faith.” 

As the investigation continues, Anne Arundel County Police Department has asked anyone with information to contact the Southern District Detective Unit at 410-222-1960.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.

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4 Responses

  1. I am so sad to read about this wanton destruction.

    Yet one more of the too many unbridled & painful hate crimes seemingly rampant these days.

    I see their actions as the epitome of their arrogance and utter selfishness.

    In some manner they are not getting ‘their way’ and so they ‘retaliate’ with utter disregard for anyone but themselves.

    They impose their ‘delusions’ on the innocent – like a petulant child in a tantrum demanding their way.

    I pray for them but it is so hard.

  2. Such pain for this lovely congregation that responds with such grace. I am so sorry for your hurt and loss. It’s such a personal attack and must feel like a violation of a safe and sacred space.

    I am so sorry this happened to you all.

  3. A Spiritual Battle worldwide –
    There are continual reports out of Africa of churches being burned and Christians being martyred for their faith.
    May we encourage and pray for our brothers and sisters, co-heirs in Christ, as we look forward to the Day of our Lord’s return.

  4. I will wait for the police investigation before having an opinion on this. I have worked as an insurance investigator and in years past I noted that many fires and other attacks on churches were part of insurance scams or political statements made by someone or someones in the church itself. Church fires are involved in a lot of insurance scams. So, wait for a bit before coming to possibly erroneous conclusions.

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