Whitestone church defaced by swastikas

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Parishioners gathering at a Whitestone church to watch the Superbowl Sunday discovered swastikas chalked onto the side of the building, authorities said.

The three markings were found on the side of the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 149-40 11th Ave., authorities said.

"Questions come into mind. Why us?" asked the Rev. David Demara, the pastor of the church. "Why that particular time? Was somebody making a statement."

The drawings were removed after police photographed them, and 50 people watched the Superbowl in the church without incident, Demara said.

The latest swastikas marked the third time the church had been vandalized in the last six months.

In August, a swastika was drawn onto the large sign in front of the church in permanent ink, according to members of the church. The symbol is still somewhat visible. Weeks later someone fired a BB gun into the church, breaking a stained glass window, members said.

"The cops asked 'Does anybody have a grudge against you?'" Demara said. The minister said he knew of no one who had any ill will toward the church.

Paul Singleman, an elder of the church, said he was one of the last people to leave the church after Sunday services and saw no markings at 1:30 p.m.

"Especially being a German Lutheran congregation, it's a huge concern, very upsetting, because of the connotations behind it," Singleman said. "It's a very old congregation. Most of them were German born and came over."

Singleman said the August incident was the first time the church had been hit since he joined in 1996.

Sunday's vandalism occurred less than a day after Immanuel Lutheran hosted a basketball tournament at its school's gym around the corner for the church.

More than a hundred people packed the gym to watch the church's youth group defeat the Whitestone firehouse of Engine 295, Ladder 144 by a score of 60-40. The event was part of the drive by Demara, who has been a minister at the church since July, to recruit new membership.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall issued a statement saying the vandalism "is an attack on all of us."

"It involved a symbol that is repulsive to our democratic ideals and the principles on which our nation was founded," she said.

Some members of the church were not quite as outraged.

"It concerns me," said Juliann Visone, an active member of the church. "But I'm not going to lose sleep over it."

Demara said he suspected the culprits were "just kids," and said he did not want to become too upset over the matter.

"If you make too big a deal out of things, they get a kick out of it, and then it can grow," he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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