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AP Working to Find the Facts About Church Fires

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Credit where it’s due: in an era where reporters often rush to judgment in issues that touch on race, the Associated Press is delivering three increasingly rare elements of the story of black church fires in the wake of the Charleston massacre: facts, statistics and context.

Breitbart News has reported on what Black Lives Matter activists are referring to as the “seven church fires” that they are pointing to as more evidence of widespread racism after the shooting in Charleston that was allegedly done to spark a race war. As we reported, behind that headline is the fact that three of the seven fires aren’t considered by local investigators to be arson.

However, that leaves four black churches set ablaze. Perhaps they were arson. Perhaps they were set by white people who had a racist motive. Perhaps. That’s a lot of “maybes,” and prudent people might wait until all the facts are in before crying racism.

However, as demonstrated by their record for factual accuracy in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, a look at a few social media posting by Black Lives Matter activists related to the church fires shows that prudence might not be the activists’ strong suit.

Enter the AP. The news organization puts recent, relevant numbers on the subject of church fires. While these statistics don’t provide direct insight into the four cases that are under investigation, they do provide a useful frame of reference for anyone curious about the issue of church fires and arson in general.

In an articled titled Church fires in the US are very common, but usually not arson or racially motivated, the AP reports some interesting statistics:

  • According to a report from 2013, an average of about 31 churches burned every week from 2007 through 2011.
  • Only 16 percent of the fires at religious and funeral homes were intentionally set during that period; an average of 5 arsons a week.
  • A Clinton-era task force discovered “63 percent of the people arrested for bombing or burning black churches in the late 1990s were white. But 37 percent were black.”

If black churches were set on fire to intimidate black Americans by white racists, anyone who believes in the rule of law will want to see authorities throw the book at the perpetrators.

However, a hallmark of civilization is that people are “innocent until proven guilty.” And that we “wait for the facts to come in” before making judgement. So hats off to the AP for supporting fact-based reporting.


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