(NY Daily) -- The tables have turned.
Police are investigating the vandalism of the inflammatory sign at ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem over the weekend as a hate crime.
The unlikely situation stands to paint the church’s controversial pastor, James David Manning, who frequently adorned his marquee with blatantly vicious messages, in a sympathetic light.
“His signs were hateful,” said Carmen Neely, the president of Harlem Pride. “I think he should be investigated for hate speech.”
The pastor and his billboards are protected under the First Amendment, though, the New York Civil Liberties Union has said.
The fast-moving culprit climbed over the fence of the church, on W. 123rd St. near Lenox Ave., and spray-painted “God Is Gay” on both sides of the sign.
The at-large suspect, who was captured on surveillance video early Saturday, also removed the letters of a homophobic message that sparked outrage in the Harlem and LGBT communities.
The messages on the sign read “Harlem Is a Homo Free Zone,” “Jesus Would Stone Homos” and “Obama Has Released the Homo Demons on the Black Man.”
Manning applauded the news that the vandalism of his sign was being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force.
“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “It was motivated by pure and simple hate.”