Gang-Fighting Pastor Says Chicago Church Targeted for Arson

PHOTO: Father Michael Pfleger attends a ceremony honoring the late comedian Bernie Mac with a street sign, Feb. 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.PlayTimothy Hiatt/Getty Images
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During his three decades at St. Sabina Church on Chicago's south side, the Rev. Michael Pfleger has received hate mail and threats against his life for being a crusader against everything from drugs and gang violence to the Jerry Springer show.

But now Pfleger, 62, said his church is being targeted.

A shirt tied to the double doors of the St. Sabina youth center was found on fire early this morning by an officer who happened to be driving by the church in Chicago's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. In two previous incidents, detectives found bags of excrement tied to the building.

"Someone was trying to send us a message," Pfleger told "We haven't had violence on the church or the buildings here. The community respects us very much."

Chicago police told they are canvassing the area to recover any possible video.

"It's unknown right now what the source or motive is," Chicago Police Department spokesperson John Mirabelli said. He added that he could not think of any incidents "in recent memory" where the church had been targeted.

Police are investigating the incident as an attempted arson.

The fire caused minor damage to the doors, but came just hours after Pfleger spoke to media outside of a Chicago store where seven people were shot last week. Pfleger has been leading the charge to get Bishop Golden Store shut down since he said it had become a "gang hangout."

"We've been very outspoken about the violence. [Some area stores] are gang-hangouts, the street offices of gangs," he said. "We've been calling out the gangs and the gang names and telling them we're not going to tolerate the shooting."

Pfleger said the area gangs involved in recent violence are the Killawards, G-Villes and Mo's.

"If they're trying to send me a message, it's obviously because they've heard my message," he said. "And we're going to continue."