As yet another black church in the South burns to the ground, many have jumped to the conclusion that racist arsonists inspired by the Charleston shooting and the Dylann Storm Roof manifesto are on a rampage of white terrorism.
The FBI says that may not be the case in the most recent church burning. There's also been doubt cast on other recent cases that the church burnings were arson driven out of racial hatred. CNN reports on the most recent case:
Federal investigators suspect lightning might have caused the fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, senior officials in the FBI said Wednesday morning.
The FBI has been working with the National Weather Service to determine whether the heavy storms in the area contributed to the fire. A forensics report of lightning strikes by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes occurred in the immediate vicinity of the church, all at 7:18 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The officials said investigators found no accelerants, an indicator of arson, at the scene.
Furthermore, CNN poses one reason many have already concluded that such church burnings must be carried out by racially motivated arsonists:
The hate crimes of the past have fueled suspicion among many that the recent spate of church fires must be the result of hate crimes, despite early indications that most of them might not even be arson, let alone steeped in racial animosity.
It's a natural reaction “because of the potent political message it sends when groups such as the Klan commit these acts. That explains the visceral reaction,” Philadelphia-based writer and activist David Love told CNN.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was among the first to insinuate that a spate of racially motivated arson was behind the church. Let's go through the seven other cases one at a time.
- Monday, June 22. College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, TN. Under investigation as vandalism.
- Tuesday, June 23. God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia. Under investigation as arson, but follows burglaries. Not currently suspected as “hate crime.”
- Tuesday, June 23. Fruitland church in Gibson County, Tennessee. After investigation, determined to have been caused by lightning.
- Wednesday, June 24. Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Under investigation as arson; but CNN reports that officials don't possess evidence of a “hate crime.”
- Friday, June 26. Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina. FBI is investigating and has not found evidence of criminal intent.
- Friday, June 26. Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida. After investigation, it appears a tree limb fell on an electrical line and sparked the fire.
- Saturday, June 27. College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio. Investigation has not led to evidence that fire was caused by incendiary device.
Neverthless, a top trending hashtag
#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches took off and strongly implied that racists were behind the church burnings.
One Twitter commenter posed that police were turning the other way.
Another claimed that eight black churches were now involved:
Some refuse to believe this isn't anything but white “terrorism”:
Another case of “hate crime” being suspected as the motivation behind an incident involving a church came to light on June 30th. In Colorado Springs, a 44-year-old black man was arrested for posting an incendiary message from the “KKK” outside of a church.
The Washington Post recently reported that the number of church burnings in the United States is 'surprisingly frequent':
The story about black churches burning catching wildfire may be another striking case of confirmation bias: People seeing only what they want to see.