Police officials in Arizona are in search of an arsonist who allegedly set fire to several copies of the Bible on various church properties and inscribed the words ‘Hail Satan’ on one of the church’s gates. The attacks started in May of this year and have taken place on six different occasions. The unidentified arsonist, suspected to be a Hispanic or white male in his late teens or early twenties, is still at large.
In each of the six cases, church employees discovered charred remains of Bibles or piles of papers on the concerned property. Police officials describe the attacks as bias crimes.
“It is being looked at as a bias crime because of the place and the manner where it is taking place. It’s a message of some sort, but it’s hard to tell what it is,” said Mesa police spokesperson Diana Williams.
The first burnt Bible was found on Mother’s Day at Mesa Baptist Church. Initially Pastor Mike Rice, who discovered the scorched books, passed it off as a bizarre prank but when a similar case was reported a week later, Rice was convinced that the arsonist had sinister intentions. The third attack proved the pastor correct, after churchgoers saw another burnt Bible on the property with the cryptic ‘Hail Satan’ message inscribed on the metal gates.
“No one was trying to set the church on fire or they would have burned it closer the building. They had something else in mind,” he said.
Rice believes that the arsonist is on a mission to promote an anti-Christian message. He also said that the attacks are reminiscent of the age-old battle between good and evil.
“They were sending a message—we reject Christ by burning the Bible and we lift up Satan... That’s been the story of Christianity. I don’t take it as a personal attack, a personal affront as much as I recognize the battle of good and evil. And I’m on the good side—the God side—and we’re hoping that we can really help these people,” he said.