As construction crews rebuild black churches in the South that have recently been destroyed by arson, church leaders, federal officials, and several Christian and civil-rights organizations have grown distraught as the incidents continue. (See related editorial, "Burned, but Not Consumed," in this issue.)
Some pastors of damaged or destroyed churches are especially dissatisfied with the government's investigation, claiming the probe has focused more on members of their congregations than the possibility of an external conspiracy. Deval Patrick, assistant attorney general for civil rights, says investigators are simply attempting to be thorough.
Four arrests have been made in the more than two-dozen arsons at predominantly African-American churches since January. Investigators have not found evidence of national or regional conspiracies. Some fires, however, appear to be related, such as four in Louisiana within five miles of one another in February (CT, April 8, 1996, p. 92).
Patrick says the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have been hampered in their efforts due to the language of current law, but a bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee will ease some of those restrictions. The passed the House 422 to 0 on June 18.
Organizations from the National Council of Churches to the Christian Coalition have offered rewards. Millions of dollars to help rebuild are being raised by civil-rights groups, denominations, and parachurch organizations.
In a joint move on June 12, the National Black Evangelical Association, the National Association of Evangelicals, and World Relief began a "Partnership Fund to Rebuild ...1
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