A 3-foot pentagram, which can sometimes be associated with devil worship, was painted on the entrance door of a Franklin Square church during the weekend, Nassau police said.
The scrawling at the Bethel Assembly of God, at 194 Courthouse Rd., is being investigated as a bias incident by Fourth Precinct detectives, police said.
A senior pastor at the church said someone painted a green star inside a circle on the door some time between 9 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. Sunday, police said.
"I was really saddened by it," said Richard Catapano, the senior pastor. "I recognized that as something done purposefully on our front door . . . so that whenever people come in, they had to be confronted by this."
The symbol was painted underneath a cross on one of the double doors. Usually, an inverted five-pointed star, with two points on top inside a circle, is a symbol associated with evil and Satan.
Catapano said he has warned other Assembly of God churches of the incident so they can keep a "watchful eye."
To hide the pentagram on Sunday, he said, he kept the doors open as about 125 parishioners started arriving for classes and services, and explained during the service why police cars were outside.
"I don't understand why people would do this, no matter what you believe," said church secretary Kathy Balich, who has been a parishioner for 31 years.
She said she was shocked and struggling to make sense of the vandalism when she went to look at the pentagram just before Sunday service: "I didn't know if it was a joke. I didn't know if it was serious."
The symbol was erased with a steel scrubbing pad and the doors have been repainted white, church officials said.
At Sunday's service, the pastor asked the congregation to pray for the vandal and police investigators, and for God's protection, church officials said.
"We prayed for that individual who did it," Catapano said, and asked God to help "change their hearts."
Detectives ask anyone with information to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.