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February 12, 2006

10 churches have now burned in Alabama and they're thinking it might be a hate crime?

And why target Baptists? I don't know enough about religious sects to know why they'd be singled out. (Although I have a vague impression that they're sort of fundamentalist types, right?)

No matter how you slice it, though, burning 10 churches is someone getting a major hate on.

Although, I do have to say I wasn't best pleased to read that burning a church is in a special category of hate crime, with a law all its own.

This is largely why I don't support special hate crimes legislation. Not only is it dubious to prosecute someone for what's going on in their head, there's a bigotry around such legislation that offends me. I mean, nationally its a crime to hate churches? A church is a building you know. It makes no more sense than passing legislation against hating a movie theater or a bakery. Legislation against hating a building doesn't impress me. (Well, maybe some buildings, on aesthetic grounds.)

What about making a federal law against hating homosexuals? Against hating immigrants, even if illegal? Against hating abortion providers? Against hating liberals?

Thought legislation is a slippery slope. So is legislation protecting property, but not people.


(Although that could get us into trouble because our country hates some people enough to kill not only them, but their families but actually its okay because I forgot that the Bush Administration decided we don't have to obey our own laws when we're visiting the rest of the world.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:25 AM


"Baptist" covers a pretty wide variety of sects at this point, not to mention a pretty big slice of the Southern population: it would be possible to target ten churches at random in parts the South and get all Baptists without violating our sense of statistical reality.

In general, Baptists are a bit more conservative than, say, Episcopalians, but you'd have to look more closely at the specific churches. The fact that the congregational demographics vary widely suggests that, if the arsonist(s) are targetting Baptists, they're not being terribly discriminating (so to speak) about it.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at February 12, 2006 11:21 AM

That was what I couldn't figure out. If there was some Baptist commonality that a person or group might be targeting, or if it was just churches and, as the article did say, the area is largely Baptist.

Thank you.

Posted by: Anne at February 12, 2006 11:31 AM

Anne, We won't know why the arsonists have targetted these churches or these Baptist churches until the culprits have been found, so anything said before then is speculative. But, there's justification for specific national legislation in re churches because -- whether you like it or not -- they, not movie theaters, were where the civil rights mass meetings took place and they -- not movie theaters -- were specifically targetted by bombers and arsonists. State and local authorities could not be relied on to pursue those who bombed and burned black churches. It was important to give the federal authorities jurisdiction in cases that may involve violations of civil rights. As for why it is Baptist churches seem to have been targetted, we don't know -- but it helps to know that 50% of African Americans have been Baptists for as long as records have been kept.

Posted by: Ralph Luker at February 12, 2006 03:27 PM

Fair enough. I was quite wrong, and I admit it.

Posted by: Anne at February 13, 2006 09:01 PM