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Black pastor of Penn Township church says he received racial, political threats

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, 10:45 a.m.
Living Word Congregational Church
Living Word Congregational Church

The black pastor of a Penn Township church told police he began carrying a gun after receiving racially tinged threatening voice mails from a former member of the congregation, according to an affidavit.

Mark Eugene Ray, 57, of Hempfield allegedly attacked the religious views and ethnicity of members and pastors at Living Word Congregational Church in messages left at the church in August and September, police said.

He is charged with ethnic intimidation and harassment.

Ray, who is white, attended Living Word Church in 2012 for about six months despite an apparent difference in opinion about Scripture, Officer Blake Danowski reported in a criminal complaint.

The pastor, Roy Aiken Jr., told police that Ray left two voice mails at the church, on Aug. 4 and Sept. 24.

Danowski listened to the message and said the first was directed at the church's teachings and his personal grievances with the pastor before turning into an “apocalyptic rant.”

“(Ray) then begins to tell (the pastor) that he is not preaching the proper kind of Christianity, stating that he is missing ‘the truth of the gospel,' ” Danowski wrote in the complaint.

The second message Ray allegedly left turned into a racial tirade, calling the church “cursed” for its supposed political leanings and using racial slurs to describe the congregation.

According to the complaint, Ray said in the message:

• The church is cursed because, “Half you (expletive) voted for Obama. ... You're all Obama (expletive) idiots who didn't read their Bible very well.”

• That “NFL players kneeling for the national anthem is disrespectful to the president.”

• And, “Half of you brain-dead nitwits voted for Mr. Super (expletive).”

The pastor told investigators the message made him fear for his safety and that of his congregation, according to the complaint. About 25 percent of his congregation is black, police said.

“Ray's voice mails served no purpose other than to attack (the pastor) and his congregation for their specific religious views and their ethnicity,” Danowski wrote.

Ray admitted to leaving the messages and said he didn't believe they were vulgar, according to the complaint.

The charges were sent by summons. A Nov. 21 preliminary hearing is set.

A phone number for Ray wasn't readily available.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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