Churches Burning

Although arson is blamed for at least three fires in June at several predominantly black churches in Southern states, investigators say a blaze that destroyed Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina was not deliberately set. Churchgoers had feared the worst because the church in Greeleyville, S.C., was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995. The latest fire broke out on June 29 during a night of frequent storms and lightning strikes. Federal investigators are looking into some of the cases as possible hate crimes. The timing of recent fires in Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, coming in the wake of the shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston on June 17, could be a cause for concern, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. They may be retaliation for the backlash against the Confederate flag that followed the shootings, he said.

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