Nine church fires in recent days in Alabama have been ruled arson.
The racial makeup of these churches is split right down the middle -- five were predominantly black, four predominantly white. They were all Baptist although not all Southern Baptist, but that might not mean anything since you can't throw a rock without hitting a Baptist church down here.
The investigation is still very much under way, and at least according to media reports, they have no suspects. However, Governor Bob Riley and the local ATF are already playing down the apparent anti-religion motivation of these attacks: Riley says he sees no evidence of a "grand conspiracy" against religion or Baptists. Jim Cavanaugh, regional director of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency, said there could be a "thrill motive" behind the arsons.
Oh really? Whoever did this meant business.
These are churches, not abandoned warehouses. Several news reports have said the fires started at or near the pulpit. You don't have to be a theologian to understand the symbolic significance. One Baptist newspaper in Texas reported that in one fire, the ignition sites were the pulpit, the American flag and the communion table.
I'm not paranoid; I don't think this means that the pogroms are coming. But I do wish these church burnings were prompting the sort of public outry that attacks against other groups would.