- The Washington Times
Monday, July 11, 2022

Pastors of churches that were vandalized this weekend in Bethesda said Monday they suspect anger over the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as a motivating factor.

“People who are upset about Roe v. Wade being overturned have the right to protest,” said the Rev. David Sayne, pastor at Wildwood Baptist Church. “Do they also have the right to desecrate graveyards and set fire to churches? When will someone say enough is enough?”

Wildwood Baptist and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church, both on Old Georgetown Road, sustained vandalism damage over the weekend.

The churches are near CARE — Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence, and Mr. Sayne said that St. Jane parishioners have frequently joined his congregation in praying at the clinic.

The Baptist church was still estimating the cost of damage in the attack that toppled 10 grave marker and shattered an outdoor wooden Easter cross in the street, the pastor told The Washington Times.

Mr. Sayne suspects more than one vandal since some of the grave markers were too heavy for one person to lift.

The Catholic parish suffered worse damage.

The Rev. Samuel Giese, the pastor of St. Jane Frances, said vandals removed the consecrated communion hosts from the Tabernacle — which Catholics believe to be the real presence of Jesus — and scattered them on the floor. He said they also broke the sanctuary lamp and set fire to several pews.

The parish has been holding services in a school gym and hopes repairs will be completed by this weekend.

“Yesterday I jumped to an immediate conclusion that it was because of the church‘s stance on abortion, which is easy to do because of the clinic down the street,” Father Giese said Monday. “But there was nothing left on site to suggest any political or religious motives.”

North Bethesda Methodist Church suffered minor damage from vandals throwing things around in a welcoming area outside of the main vestibule.

But the vandals did not breach the vestibule, said Diane Walsh-Barberesi, chair of trustees at North Bethesda Methodist. She also denied media reports that a fire was set outside the church, which flies a rainbow flag in front of the building.

Ms. Walsh-Barberesi noted that the church does not participate in pro-life activities.

“We don’t have a position on abortion like the Catholic Church, which is, unfortunately, being targeted,” she said Monday.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich on Monday called the attacks “completely unacceptable.”

“The criminal activity that took place over the weekend does not represent the values of inclusion and equity that we are striving for in the communities of this County. We pride ourselves on our diversity of religious communities. A hateful incident against one community impacts us all,” Mr. Elrich said.

Montgomery County investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying the vandals.

“Fire/Explosive Investigators seeking info RE this morning’s (2a) fire at Saint Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church ANYONE w/ any info Call @mcfrs ARSON Tipline 240.777.2263,” fire department public information officer Pete Piringer tweeted.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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