A small church on U.S. Highway 79 was vandalized Aug. 11, and the pastor told a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputy that he believed the break-in and damage done to be a hate crime and a part of cult worship.

John Williams, who is pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, also said that a blanket tied in a knot that was laid over one of the pews of the church was a message of satanic worship.

Williams told a deputy that he had gone to the church Aug. 7 to turn on the air-conditioner so the church could be cooling down. He said that when he left, he crossed the Arkansas River and saw two white males walking down the road that seemed suspicious.

He said when church members started arriving at about 10 a.m. Sunday, they noticed wine spilled on the alter and several Bibles and songbooks lying behind the pulpit ripped apart. Williams said he also noticed a page out of a Bible had been ripped out and appeared to have been burned.

Williams said he also noticed that wine had been taken out of the kitchen and was spilled on a pew two rows back from the pulpit.

Also, some of the plants had been taken from an outside planter and placed inside the pastor’s pulpit.

Entry to the church was gained by breaking in both side doors, which were chipped, and a paint scraping tool was found on the floor behind the pulpit. Williams said he had never seen it before and said he believed that was what was used to break into the building.