ShareThis Page

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
Facebook
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, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.