Photo Credits: Hindu Human Rights
A Hindu Swaminarayan Temple in Kentucky has been desecrated with what police said were hate-filled religious phrases and black crosses. A knife had been stabbed into a chair and several doors were broken down, police said. The suspect, a 17-year-old white male, is believed to have acted alone. He was arrested and charged with 1st-degree criminal mischief and 3rd-degree burglary after the Louisville Metro Police Department received a tip, authorities said.
Seventy-six percent of adults in Kentucky identify as Christian, including 49 percent who say they are evangelical Protestant, according to the Pew Research Center. About 2 percent of Kentucky adults are from non-Christian faiths. Less than 1 percent is Hindu.
Temple spokesman Rajesh Patel said Friday that temple members were shaken up by the vandalism, especially when they saw a poster of their deity covered with paint.
“When you go and touch what’s sacred to us, that got people shaken up,” Patel said.
“Do we let a hate crime take over our lives or do we move forward? We will be back in service Sunday and we will be even stronger and even closer than before,” said Patel. “And we will educate our children, that this wasn’t an attack by a religion, but an attack by an individual.”
As Huffington Post reports, black paint was sprayed onto a poster depicting a religious figure, and the temple’s walls were covered with black crosses and phrases such as “Jesus Is The Only Lord” and “Jesus Is All Mighty.” A knife was reportedly plunged into a chair in the temple.
“The desecration of this temple is heartbreaking,” Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said during the press conference. “I want the people of this temple to know that we will stand with them. We will do our best to keep them safe, and we will do what we need to do to make Louisville a safer city.”
Janice Cates, director of the mayor’s Compassion Initiative, said they expected at least 100 people to attend the clean-up, including faith leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities of Louisville who have all shown an “outpouring of support.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher said he called upon Louisville residents to join him on Saturday to help “paint away the hate” and clean the temple up. At the same time, Louisville is home to Festival of Faiths, an annual interfaith conference that promotes interreligious understanding and attracts speakers and attendees from around the country.