A church in Ambler became the target of white supremacist intimidation after its pastor hung a banner condemning hate and wrote a blog post titled "Against White Supremacy."
Police in the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania borough are investigating the incident that dates to mid-August, around the time a pro-peace banner appeared on the outside of St. John's Lutheran Church, Ambler Mayor Jeanne Sorg said Tuesday.
"It appears a member of a white supremacist group or someone claiming to be, from the Valley Forge area, came to Ambler and took photographs of the church, then proceeded to post them online," Sorg said.
"It's become a great place for people to hide behind [anonymity] and post horrible things," she added of social media.
St. John's pastor, the Rev. Rachel Anderson, immediately alerted police once she saw the online postings.
"The pastor felt someone was trying to intimidate them and put fear into them," Sorg said. "She went to police and filed a report. That's exactly what you're supposed to do."
Anderson reportedly received death threats after posting the banner that read "Resist white supremacy," according to a local news report. Police Chief William Foley and Anderson did not return messages left Tuesday for comment.
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In her blog post three days after the violent Aug. 12 protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Anderson described white supremacists and nationalists who gathered there as "infected with these demonic spirits," and "bearing the standards of nations that once existed to promote the enslavement and torture of Black human beings, and the genocide of our Jewish siblings."
Anderson, who came to St. John's in Feb. 2016, called on people to advocate for compassion and make peace with all people.
"In the name of Jesus, we, the church cannot be silent. By the grace of God we have the opportunity to cast out the demons of white supremacy, racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and hatred with the compassionate healing of God," she wrote. "Compassionate, healing, but not submissive, not acquiescent, not obedient to the powers of this world."
White nationalism and supremacy have reached more prominent levels in American culture this year. Ideologues in those fringe movements have been emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, who at times has hedged his condemnation of hate groups.
Sorg said whoever was behind the cyberbullying and death threats against Anderson picked the wrong community to try stirring up bigotry.
She said St. John's was overflowing for Sunday services this past weekend with supporters of Anderson, and her message.
"When these people tried to create fear, Ambler came together," Sorg said. "It backfired on them."