Clinton sounds call to stop church burnings

burnt church

June 8, 1996
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty

WASHINGTON (CNN) President Clinton called the 18-month wave of attacks against black churches "depraved" in his weekly radio address Saturday.

"We do not now have evidence of a national conspiracy," he said, "but it is clear that racial hostility is the driving force behind a number of these incidents."

"We must rise up as a national community and safeguard the right of every citizen to worship in safety," Clinton said. He outlined four steps being taken by the federal government:


Attending the president's radio address where two black ministers whose churches have been attacked. The Rev. Terrence Mackey, pastor of Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, praised the actions by the federal government and said his parishioners would not take any direct action that would imperil their lives.

"No lives are lost here yet," Mackey said. "I'd rather count another burnt church than to count a dead body."

Sen. Bob Dole, Clinton's apparent opponent in November's presidential election, has also spoken out against the attacks on black churches. In a statement released Friday, he called the attacks "hate crimes" and said they were "evil."

"I urge the Justice Department and all state and local law enforcement authorities to use every available resource to find and punish the cowards responsible for these vicious acts of hate," Dole's statement said.

More than 200 FBI and ATF agents are going through the ruins of some 30 churches for clues. Five arrests have occurred in connection with seven fires.


U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-North Carolina, said Clinton's actions were "encouraging." Myrick is a former mayor of Charlotte, where a historic sanctuary of the Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church burned two days ago.

But Myrick said it was "too soon to tell" if the Charlotte fire was racially motivated.

"Whoever did it, it's deplorable, and we aren't going to tolerate it in Charlotte or anyplace else," she said.

Myrick said the Charlotte community would work together to rebuild the church.

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