A series of church fires last month in Alabama has renewed a perennial, nationwide concern for protecting congregations and prosecuting arsonists.
Racial hatred did not appear to be a motive in the damage or destruction of ten churches—half of them with black members, half with white congregants.
Within the first two weeks after the first fires February 3, federal authorities had not charged any suspects. One lead suggested that two young men traveled about setting most of the fires.
The National Coalition for Burned Churches, based in Charleston, Southern Carolina, has documented more than 1,700 arsons, attempted arsons, bombings and suspicious church fires in the U.S. from 1990 to 2000. More than 600 cases of church arsons have been found in subsequent years, according to the United Methodist News Service.