Central Florida church vandalized with swastikas, other graffiti

By David Paulsen
Posted Feb 7, 2024

Vandals scrawled swastikas and other graffiti on the exterior of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, Florida, on Feb. 6. The graffiti has since been removed. Photo: Alison Harrity

[Episcopal News Service] Police are investigating vandalism at an Episcopal church in the Diocese of Central Florida where swastikas and other inflammatory graffiti were scrawled on the exterior of the church during daylight hours Feb. 6.

The Rev. Alison Harrity, rector of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview that she had left the church for just 1 1/2 hours and discovered the graffiti when she returned around 6 p.m. She found swastikas in black marker defacing a church sign, an information kiosk, a utility door and a statue of St. Francis, which had been turned around. “Hail [sic] Hitler” was written next to one of the symbols.

In other public-facing locations, the vandals wrote “demon” and “kill.” The exterior sign on a women’s restroom door had been altered to read “Woke,” while “Murder” was written on the corresponding sign on the men’s room. Harrity and other church staff members have since removed the graffiti.

The identity and motivation of the vandals is not known, though Harrity suggested it may be “an external example for the inward turmoil” gripping the United States at a time when hate-filled attacks are all too common.

“This is the messaging that’s out in the world, and to bring it to the one place where we really do our damnedest to spread the message of love, passion and inclusion, that made me sad,” Harrity said.

The church has never been vandalized before, she added.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.