A Philadelphia man who allegedly posted intimidating comments on social media pages about two local pastors, including some comments that supported white supremacy, has been charged after one of the pastors went to police.
Joseph Baird, 41, of the Port Richmond section of the city, was issued a summons Wednesday by police for allegedly intimidating the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Audubon, New Jersey, according to the criminal complaint.
Those alleged derogatory and threatening comments by Baird on photos shared from the Rev. Ryan Paetzold's Facebook page stem from another incident involving a Lutheran church in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, last month.
Paetzold had shown his support on social media for the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Ambler. That pastor, the Rev. Rachel Anderson, had written a blog post titled "Against White Supremacy" and had a sign up outside her church that read, "Resist White Supremacy."
Under the Facebook name "ChetD Joe," Baird initially posted a photo of St. John's on his own Facebook page.
He also allegedly confronted Anderson in person about the sign, church officials said.
"Yooo.... Did you see the video of the church that hates white people ?" Baird posted August 23.
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Another man responded, "No but i have petrol and matches brother"
Baird goes on to tell the man where the Ambler church is located and added, "Not too far from Valley Forge Valley Forge KKK territory"
That same day, Baird shared a photo from Paetzold's Facebook page and tagged 40 people, with a message that read: "Don't worry if he deletes it... I have screenshots of him... This is the queer that does not like white people from that church"
He also posted a screenshot of Paetzold's page.
Paetzold told NBC10 in an interview that he believe Baird allegedly targeted him because he was among numerous Lutheran ministers who lent online support to Anderson.
The photo Baird initially shared particularly worried Paetzold, he said. It was of him and his pregnant wife.
"My wife is seventeen weeks pregnant and for him to use the pregnancy photo, he made it worse and worse and worse," Paetzold said. "Then I removed that photo and he did it again."
He said he was moved to go to police not only for personal reasons, but because of his duty to his church.
"As a pastor, I feel like I don't have a lot of choice. I wrote to someone recently that when we're baptized and when we're ordained, we make promises, and they include working for justice and peace for all the world," he said. "Whether I'm scared or not, it's what chose."
Like Anderson in Ambler before him, Paetzold is not going it alone. The presiding bishop of the 3.7 million-congregant Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, called him to lend her moral support.
"It shook them up pretty much, so I called both to see how they were doing," Eaton said in an interview Friday. "I'm very proud of them."
Eaton reinforced an edict of the Lutheran church to confront prejudice and injustice.
"We have to name this and we have to walk with our people, to say this is not what the kingdom of God looks like," she said.
Baird was given an initial court date of Sept. 27 in Evesham Township Municipal Court. An attempt to reach him Friday by phone numbers associated with his Port Richmond address was unsuccessful.