2018-05-16 05:50:24 UTC
A string of churches with predominantly black congregations
from Florida to Tennessee -- has reported fires in the past
week, officials say.
The circumstances surrounding the six fires in five states
differ in each case, but their occurring in the past eight days
has prompted closer scrutiny.
So far only two of the six cases are being investigated as
arson, and federal authorities have not launched any official
hate crime investigations.
Arson was a notable problem for black churches in the mid-1990s
and prompted then-President Bill Clinton to push for the
creation of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, though a
related U.S. Department of Justice task force was suspended at
the end of his second term.
This week's fires come amid a tense time in some Southern cities
after a shooting by an alleged racist at a historic black church
in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine dead. The result has
been a push for the removal of the Confederate flag from several
state Capitols amid reignited debates over the region's racial
A senior official from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives said they have special agents, certified
fire investigators, looking into the different fires.
"At this time, ATF has not determined the fires are related. We
are still determining origin and cause so we cannot say all are
arson," the official told ABC News.
The ATF is also reportedly checking the fires against its Bomb
Arson Tracking System to see whether there are any commonalities
among the fires.