Garcia, 25, is led out of Fifth Precinct in Patchogue, charged with hate crimes against the Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion Church in Patchogue.

Garcia, 25, is led out of Fifth Precinct in Patchogue, charged with hate crimes against the Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion Church in Patchogue. (Photo credit: James Carbone | Christhian Munguia / September 5, 2009)

A man arrested on charges of planting hate messages on the altar of a church earlier this week and hurling a log and a bottle at a churchgoer Friday night was reportedly feuding with the pastor over church fees, police said Saturday.

No one was hurt.

The two incidents -- initially believed to be anti-Hispanic in nature -- are now being attributed to religion. "In this case, the hate crime is not targeted to race, but to rather religious practice," said Director of Public Information for Suffolk County Police.

Authorities think Christhian Munguia Garcia, 25, was going after pastor, Rev. Roberto Sanchez of Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion. Garcia attended a church service Saturday afternoon, but was kicked out for being disruptive. Parishioners held him down until police arrived.

Garcia has been charged with attempted assault as a hate crime; he's also been charged with criminal trespass and aggravated harassment in connection with hateful notes he left on the altar Tuesday night. Investigators say the notes - including one that said "Hispanics don't rule, whites do" - were written in marker on pages ripped from a church ledger and laid out "systematically."

"We didn't feel fear," said Carlos Sanchez, the pastor's son, "just sadness somebody broke into the church to put those letters there."

The church is in the area where a teenage mob looking for Mexicans last fall stabbed Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death.

"What concerns me is that people immediately jump to the conclusion that it's a white-on-Hispanic hate crime," said Mayor Paul V. Pontieri Jr. "Life is complicated. People don't always get along."