Clinton sounds call to stop church burnings
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:
A national task force already investigating the church burnings will report to him with recommendations.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will send agents to black churches to inform them of steps they can take to protect themselves.
The president will seek to strengthen bipartisan legislation in Congress that would make it easier to bring federal prosecutions against people who attack churches.
- A toll-free telephone number has been set up for people with any leads or information on such fires. That number is 1-888-ATF-FIRE.
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.
- 'This was a set fire' - June 7, 1996
- Investigators sift through ashes of latest black church fire - June 4, 1996
- Congress discusses burnings of black churches - May 21, 1996
- Reward offered in church fires - April 23, 1996
- Two ATF agents taken off church fires investigation - April 5, 1996
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Department of the Treasury: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
- Fire and EMS Information Network
Back to the top
FeedbackSend us your comments.
Selected responses are posted daily.
Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.