A fire broke out at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, on Tuesday.
– File picGREELEYVILLE (South Carolina), July 2 – A day after a fire gutted a small black church here, a law enforcement official said yesterday that lightning was the likely cause of the blaze.
While there have been six recent church fires in southern states, only a handful of them have been attributed to arson.
“You feel sorry, it’s devastating to put the church and the community back through the same thing”.
“Watch the pattern”, he said.
Young, who is also pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, said he can remember a time during the civil right movement in the South when church burning, bombings and other acts of vandalism were common.
Mount Zion is the latest in a string of black churches in the South that have gone up in flames since nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Only the church’s brick outer walls were left intact Wednesday, but authorities said no one was injured.
Hate crime experts say black churches are right to raise the alarm, even if the fires aren’t found to be politically motivated. A forensics report of lightning strikes by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes occurred in the immediate vicinity of the church, all at 7:18 p.m. ET Tuesday night. Juveniles are “disproportionately” responsible for burning or damaging churches, according to the task force. Dylann Roof, who is white, has been charged. “I think these fires are just shining another light on just what the black church is supposed to be about, and that we’re resilient and strong enough to stand”. Two members of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted in arson in that case.
In Elyria, a city of 54,000 people in Ohio, Pastor Derrell Deer said an electrical fault sparked a raging fire at his mostly black College Heights Baptist Church on Saturday morning.
According to an earlier Associated Press report, the fire is not being considered the handiwork of an arsonist.
No injuries were immediately reported, but The Kingstree News of Williamsburg County reported that the church was “gutted”. His motive was to hide the theft of money from Sunday collections. They were each sentenced to almost two decades in prison.
Arson was also ruled out in a June 26 fire at the Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina, said Captain Eric Abdullah of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office. Damage at the predominantly African American church was estimated at $700,000. However he added, the “church will have to be rebuilt”. “Others have come together with you”, Clinton said on June 12, 1996. “So our work in this matter is continuing”. The New York Times named a few reasons as to why officials do not believe the the fires to be hate crimes.
It was not clear what percentage of these fires, an average of 280 a year, were considered hate crimes. Three other church fires are under investigation.
Arson is determined in only about 6 to 8 percent of all fires, he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working with the National Weather Service to determine whether the heavy storms in the area contributed to the fire.
The black church in the 19th and 20th centuries “became a very visible target”, says Professor Dickerson.