White Nationalist Extremists Storm Gosford Church
"These people are to Christianity what ISIS is to Islam", Father Rod Bower said.
What you need to know
- Inclusive, pro-diversity signs at the Gosford Anglican Church went viral
- Father Rod Bower has supported gay marriage and refugees
- Members of a white nationalist group stormed the church on Friday night
- Churchgoers screamed as men in costumes entered, yelling into a megaphone
Police are investigating after notorious members of a white nationalist 'patriot' group stormed a Gosford church dressed in costumes and brandishing fake weapons on Saturday night.
The Gosford Anglican Church, which has come to national and international attention in recent times for the inclusive and pro-diversity messages of its leader Father Rod Bower, was targeted by a Melbourne-based group including former neo-Nazi Neil Erikson.
At least five men interrupted a church service on Saturday night, marching into the church -- with one member dressed as Jesus Christ, holding a whip, and another as a Roman soldier carrying a sword -- and bellowing into a megaphone.
In a video posted to the group's Facebook page, the group noted Bower's support for gay marriage, as well as some of the church's outdoor signs -- some of which have gone viral after being posted on social media -- including 'bless the burqa' and 'Jesus had 2 dads and he turned out OK', as the reasons they targeted the church. The members also posed for photos in front of the church's Saturday night sign, reading 'Ramadan Mubarak'.
In the video, about a dozen churchgoers are shown inside the church as the group entered. One woman screamed as the group's leader began loudly speaking into a megaphone, interrupting the service led by Bower. Bower asked the men to leave, and another man stood to attempt to physically move the men out of the church.
The group's leader yelled into the megaphone for several minutes before the men left the church, later standing outside the church in front of the 'Ramadan Mubarak' sign and hurling more abuse at Bower .
"This was an extremely traumatising event. Fortunately many regular parishioners were absent so the devastation was somewhat minimised," Bower said in a statement following the stunt.
"This was in my view a terrorist attack. One cannot imagine that had these men been Muslims they would have been allowed to walk away from this act of violence and intimidation. The tabloid papers would have lead with this on their front pages."
"These people are to Christianity what ISIS is to Islam. This attack shows how far we have gone down the road of right wing extremism; such an attack on a church could not have been imagined only a few years ago."
"Initially I wasn't aware if this was a fake sword or a real one, and my first concern was for the safety of my parishioners," Bower told Triple M radio on Monday.
In a separate Facebook post, Bower said "We will not be silenced."
"These ‘Christianist’ terrorists used violence and intimidation to try and silence our message of love and inclusion."
NSW Police confirmed to ten daily they are making inquiries into the incident.
On Monday, the church's sign had changed to "we're into hail Marys, not heil Hitlers".