PHOTO: 'Disgraceful' sign at church in Oak Park Heights

PHOTO: 'Disgraceful' sign at church in Oak Park Heights

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OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) -

Residents in the Stillwater area were shocked to see a sign next to a local church display the message "God bless the KKK" on Monday, and police in the small Minnesota town of Oak Park Heights are looking into it.

A Fox 9 viewer submitted a photograph of the offensive display alongside Calvary Assembly Church, which is located on Osgood Avenue North near Highway 36. The tipster was driving his teenage son to a basketball practice on Monday morning when the two came across the sign he described as "disgraceful."

"At first, I thought, 'That can't be what it said,'" Roger Moore admitted.

A message of hate is an unlikely and unwelcome one on a church sign, especially one that extends beyond hate and into racism.

"That, to me, is a message that says, 'We don't want anyone who has any brown pigmentation in their skin. We don't want to see you in this area,'" Moore said.

A police report states that the sign had been set up to read "God bless Oak Park Heights," but it appears an individual or group of people moved the letters from both sides of the sign around. No letters appeared to be damaged, but police and the pastor are now searching for answers.

"I do want to bless them, to be honest with you," Pastor John Kuruvilla Kaiyalethe, who has led the Calvary Assembly for 10 years, told Fox 9 News.

Police took the report about the altered sign shortly after noon on Monday, but Kaiyalethe told Fox 9 News he didn't learn about what had happened to the sign outside the building where he serves his congregation of 35-40 people until Tuesday morning. By the time Fox 9 News cameras got there to scope out the scene, the letters had been restored to their original location.


Photo taken by Iris Perez on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. [Click to enlarge]

"I hope they will change their hatred and become normal -- but in any way for me to approve of their philosophy would be far away from my faith and who I am" Kaiyalethe told Fox 9 News.

While Kaiyalethe made it clear he does not condone the actions of the vandal, he says this isn't the first time someone has violated his sign, his church and his community.

"A few years before, I had a big sign that said, 'God bless America,' and somebody changed the word 'God' to 'dog,' which really hurt me," he explained.

Yet, Moore and his star-athlete son, Junior, believe more than hoping must be done. In fact, they plan to stay away from Stillwater and Oak Park Heights from now on.

"[My son] came to me this morning. He said, 'I've read it, I've talked about it in school, but this is the first time I've seen it face-to-face," Moore explained. "I'd like to hear what the community is going to say about it because at this point, mayors, police officers, firemen -- they have had a chance to drive by and see that. I can't be the only one that has feelings." 

Anyone with information about who may be responsible for the sign vandalism is urged to call Oak Park Heights police at 651-439-4723.

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