Salem Black River Presbyterian vandalism
By Bill Segars
Some of you may associate my name with photographs of beautiful old churches, articles concerning their architectural history and the people that lovingly maintain these buildings that we all enjoy. Today I bring you information pertaining to one of these buildings, unfortunately I’ll not be sharing photographs and the account is certainly not very loving. This is not a news article with names and pictures, but a plea to readers and any one that you may have influence over to exercise common decency, or at least what most of us call “common decency”.
In the dark early morning hours of September 29, 2017, four young people between the ages of 18 and 20 went to Salem Black River Presbyterian Church on Hwy. 527 in the Maysville area of Sumter County. If they had read the August 5, 2015 article in the News & Press, they would have known that services are not held at this hour, but the church is open for worship on the second and forth Sunday of every month at 4 p.m. As you are imaging by now, they did not come to worship with this small congregation. If the devil didn’t send them, their hands and minds were definitely possessed by the devil while these kids were on the property.
As fate had it, one of the loyal church members arrived at Salem around 9 a.m. on Friday morning, September 29, to prepare the building for a funeral service later that afternoon. Upon arrival he saw some of the worst display of satanic messages and symbols spray painted on the buildings that he had ever seen. Words that are far worse than I want to put in print, words that your parents would deem to be “ugly words”. Words and symbols were spray painted with purple paint on the white stucco columns, red handmade brick walls, porch floor sandstone tiles, freshly painted white doors and the sidewalk. Every building had been vandalized, the sanctuary, the Session House, even the outhouse. Pause for a moment and let that mental picture soak in as the paint dries on these Holy structures.
It does no good to ask, “Why”. There is absolutely no reason for a person to deface a building like this. No human should be able to find pleasure from an act which brings so much hurt and heartache to the many people that love these buildings and the sacredness that they represent. Since this building was built in 1846, thousands of loving people have freely given of their time and money to maintain this church for others to enjoy. Through this senseless act of these four “children” it’s no wonder that the members take what they saw that Friday morning personally, a slap in their face. A better question to ask after an event like this should be “How can actions like this be stopped”.
This is not the first time for such an act at Salem, maybe the worst, but not the first. Unfortunately today publicity and social media seems to glorify “haunted places”. There is even a list of Haunted Places in South Carolina. Individuals with deranged minds are taking “haunted places” to new lower level, well beyond spooky ghost stories told around a campfire. Salem is not the only place that has experienced such vandalism; we have another one closer to here. That’s all I’ll say about that, but it’s a problem.
I wish that a person with the mental capacity to do such heinous acts would read this article. I doubt that they will. So who can benefit from this article? After all, that’s exactly what this article is intended to do, stop such action before it happens in the future. You, the current reader can help. If you are a parent: teach your children respect; respect for themselves and their actions, respect for others as a person and their property. If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t bother it. Children are not born with the ability to walk or respect. They need to be taught the value of respect, just as the ability to walk. If you have a friend that thinks these acts are cute or funny: as a true friend, tactfully tell them that there is nothing cute or funny about defacing or humiliating a person or their property. Devious actions like this hurt everyone and should not be tolerated in our civilized society.
So what is the current status of these four young individuals? Again this is not a news article, but I can tell you that on October 13, 2017 (Friday the 13th no less) they were arrested, charged and incarcerated. They have confessed to the deeds and are cooperating with the authorities. At this point the case is in the hands of the court system. Due to their employment, consequences could be severe.
With effort and expense these buildings can be cleaned of the vulgar satanic graffiti. I’m confident that the Salem members will forgive, or certainly get over the actions of these four. The real losers in this senseless action are the four young people. Their lives are now turned upside down. Their hopes and dreams now are not the same as they were when they woke up on September 18, 2017. In the early morning hours of September the 19th, for some reason they failed to realize that “Common sense is not always common knowledge” and “Actions has consequences”. Let’s not let this happen to someone that we care about.