Magazine article The Christian Century

No National Conspiracy in Church Fires, Say Feds

Magazine article The Christian Century

No National Conspiracy in Church Fires, Say Feds

Article excerpt

A federal arson task force has reported that it again found no evidence of a national conspiracy in arsons at black southern churches and said that the number of church fires in general has declined since 1996. "Arson is hard to prove," James Johnson, Treasury Department undersecretary for enforcement, said October 22 when the task force on church arson released its second report.

There have been arrests in 34 percent of the church fires--a rate more than twice as high as the 16 percent national arrest rate for all arson cases, Johnson said. The task force, including staff from the Treasury and Justice departments, has tracked arson attacks on churches since 1995. It reported having 243 investigations closed and 427 open.

"Right now we have found no evidence of a national conspiracy" based on antireligious or racial motives, said Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general for civil fights. …

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