20 Years After KKK Torched It, SC Black Church Burns Again

SC's Mount Zion AME Church is 7th black church to burn since Charleston
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2015 6:57 AM CDT
Updated Jul 1, 2015 7:01 AM CDT
Smoke rises from Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church early today in Greeleyville, SC.   (Veasey Conway/The Morning News via AP)
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(Newser) – Yesterday the NAACP issued a series of tweets in response to the spate of black churches going up in flames across the South, calling for "black churches to take necessary precautions" and promoting the #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches hashtag. Hours later, the Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, SC, became the seventh on this list after a blaze that took more than two hours to put out and gutted the building, fire officials tell NBC News. Even more distressing to the community: This same church was torched in 1995 by KKK members, notes the AP. "That was a tough thing to see," a county councilman says. "It is hurting those people again." After the church burned 20 years ago, the two Klan members responsible were sent to prison for almost 20 years each, and then-President Bill Clinton came to speak in Greeleyville.

"We cannot let someone come into our democratic home, the home of our faith, and start torching our houses of worship," he said at the time, per the AP. Investigators were on the scene this morning, combing through debris and taking pictures, though a federal law enforcement source not authorized to discuss the case publicly tells the AP that arson wasn't the cause, based on preliminary findings. Another possibility that's been floated: The church caught fire after a lightning strike (there were storms in the area last night, NBC notes). Either way, "it's gone," state Rep. Cezar McKnight tells the Post and Courier. "South Carolina has been through a lot the last two weeks and we've made the best of a terrible situation. I would hate for this to be something somebody did on purpose to try to poison the love and fellowship." (An example of that love: Charleston's Emanuel AME Church's first service since the shootings.)

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