LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. - Strong words are coming from law enforcement following the discovery of a noose at a rural church; authorities in Lauderdale County are calling it a hate crime.
“It’s not funny. If that was their intent, it’s certainly not. Personally, I’m treating it as somebody intended a threat. That’s the only way I can take it,” Sheriff Rick Singleton says of the discovery made Wednesday night.
The sheriff says that it appears that while members of St. John Primitive Baptist Church were in Bible study, someone snuck up to the church and hung a noose on the front landing.
Parishioners saw it as they were leaving. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and when I did see it I was in disbelief,” said Debra Bean, a member of the church.
“This is a church that has been in this community for over 100-years. They are good Christian people who go to church out there. They don’t deserve this and we are not going to tolerate it,” said Sheriff Singleton.
It’s the first report of a hate crime like this in years in the area.
Sheriff Singleton says fingerprints were lifted from the pole leading up to the noose. The crime has also been reported to the FBI.
“This community is better than that. All of us who live in Lauderdale County and the Shoals area, we know this is not that kind of area and we are not going to put up with people who want to engage in that kind of stuff.”
Debra Bean worries that this isn't the end of acts like this, “With all the church bombings, the church fires and all that, who knows what’s next. If they went to the extreme to do this, what’s next?”
Church leaders say they hold no ill will towards the people who are responsible.
Debra Bean says they are called to love everyone, “He is not pleased with what’s going on with all the hate with one another, because I love everybody. I don’t care what color of skin they are, I love everyone. God wants us to love everyone and it should be like that.”
The sheriff’s office says they are keeping a close eye on rural churches like this, to hopefully deter more acts of hate.
Sheriff Singleton says he is coming up with all the reward money that he can, hoping to bring who ever committed this hate crime to justice.
If you have any information about this crime call the Shoals Area Crime Stoppers tip line at 256-386-8685.