OLD TOWN SPRING, Texas - The Greater Church of Lucifer doesn't stand out much from the rest of the turn-of-the-century buildings in Old Town Spring. Church founders say they wanted it that way and even chose not to put the word "Lucifer" on their sign along the sidewalk on Main Street. But even in the month before it opened in a small white building it shares with an incense and aromatherapy shop, it's been easy to find. It's been the one with Christian protesters on the front sidewalk. And, as of Thursday, it's the building with the large Pecan tree branch on its roof courtesy of a chainsaw-wielding vandal.
Building owners called the Harris County Sheriff's Office to report the vandalism. The building that the church shares with the Mystic Muse has a century old tree growing literally inside its east-facing wall with massive branches spreading over the roof. Thursday morning a scattering of sawdust and a clean cut show where someone climbed on the roof and severed a branch. It fell on top of both the shop and the church damaging the roof.
"It just saddens me to an ultimate degree that we have to be subject to this type of terrorism," said church founder Jacob No. "And it's very heartbreaking. Very heartbreaking for me to see this."
Since announcing their rental of half a building on Main Street, church leaders and their merchant neighbors say they have been targeted repeatedly by protesters.
Several groups are planning to protest the church grand opening scheduled to take place over three days starting Saturday.
"In the morning there have been chanters, and dancers, and singers right around in here," said Gerri the owner of GRS Fabrics, a quilting supply store next door who says protesters have even chose to spray Holy water on the church and surrounding buildings.
"I could live with the church being here," she said. "Because I have a feeling after a while it might disappear, you know, if it doesn't have the exposure. But it's the anti, the anti-people that are coming in from all over the world here."
Several merchants who chose not to be identified blamed media coverage, not the church, for the influx of protesters and asked that this story not be covered at all fearing that increased exposure will hurt business in Old Town Spring.
"We're not worshiping the devil. We're not pushing our views on other people," said church leader and author Michael W. Ford who says they do not worship any deity at all, that the philosophy is based on self-reliance and the power of self. "The symbol of Lucifer is a symbol of spiritual self-rebellion. But also rebellion with a purpose. We're not against Christianity."
"If somebody were to come and say you can't be a Christian anymore and it's illegal to be a Christian we would probably be the first people to stand up for the Christians for their right to believe what they believe," added Jacob No. "We honor their right to believe what they believe. And their right to protest. We can honor that right. There'll be no resistance from our end because we cherish that right ourselves."
"We can all coexist. That's all we want. That's all we want."
That coexistence will likely be tested this weekend as protesters promise to return to Old Town Spring.