SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCIMPLEMENTATION OF THE CHURCH ARSON PREVENTION ACT OF 1996
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Henry J. Hyde (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Henry J. Hyde, George W. Gekas, Howard Coble, Bob Inglis, Bob Goodlatte, Ed Bryant, Steve Chabot, William L. Jenkins, Asa Hutchinson, Edward A. Pease, John Conyers, Jr., Robert C. Scott, Melvin L. Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Martin T. Meehan, and William D. Delahunt.
Also present: Jon Dudas, deputy general counsel; Annelie Weber, office manager; Nicole Nason, counsel, Julian Epstein, minority staff director; Melanie Sloan, minority counsel; and Dawn Burton, clerk.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN HYDE
Mr. HYDE. The committee will come to order.
Nearly 8 months ago, on May 21, 1996, we met in this same room to address a problem that was shaking the Nation: the rash of church of arsons that swept across America, and the Southeast in particular. Every week brought new reports of the torchings of our houses of worship. People were rightfully fearful. The sight of these places of sanctuary and peace burned to ashes was and is chilling. Even more chilling was the thought that such heinous acts were possibly the part of a larger, coordinated effort.
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When we met last May, we had a number of questions that needed answering. We needed information about the arsons, whether they were connected in any way, and whether racial or religious hatred was a motivating factor. We needed to determine if Federal law enforcement agencies were investigating, prosecuting, and preventing these fires as effectively as possible, and whether any changes to the law were necessary to achieve that goal. We also needed to know if there was sufficient communication and coordination between Federal law enforcement agencies and with State and local law enforcement officials. Finally, we needed to determine what the appropriate role is for the Federal Government in rebuilding burned churches and in preventing future church arsons.
The Judiciary Committee, as well as the entire Congress, moved swiftly to address this problem. In just over 6 weeks, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, Public Law 104155. The law was intended to enhance the investigation and increase arrests in church arson cases, make prosecution more meaningful, prevent further church arsons, and rebuild churches that were damaged and destroyed by arson. The act was intended to achieve these goals in a variety of ways.
First, it increased the maximum penalty for arson from 10 to 20 years.
Second, it broadened Federal jurisdiction to prosecute church burnings. The ability to prosecute such cases now applies to any conduct within the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.
Third, it eliminated the requirement that damage to the church exceed $10,000. This will allow for prosecution, even where the church is not of great monetary value. It also allows for prosecution when a church is defaced or desecrated, but not completely destroyed. Although the economic damage caused by spray painting swastikas on synagogues or firing a shotgun through church windows may be de minimis, the intimidation and fear they cause are great, and such acts should be vigorously prosecuted.
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Fourth, it established a loan guarantee program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development that is to be used for rebuilding damaged churches.
And, finally, it authorized additional funds for the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, including the Community Relations Service, to investigate, prevent, and respond to church arsons.
By all reports, this bipartisan effort has proven to be a great success. According to the January 1997 Interim Report of the National Church Arson Task Force, since about the time we passed this law, the number of church arsons has steadily decreased. More than 100 suspects have been arrested. Arrest rates in church arson cases have been double the general arrest rate for arson, and several churches are being rebuilt with the Federal Loan Guarantee Fund established by the act. At this oversight hearing, we need to review how the law has been implemented, expose any problem areas, and decide if any further action is necessary.
In closing, I must recognize the driving force that John Conyers has been in this entire investigation. He has made it a priority with himself and has helped us make it a priority with our committee, and we would not be here today were it not for John Conyers' sensitizing the conscience of this committee and this Congress to this serious issue. So I want to thank him, as well as his excellent staff, for their efforts in helping to organize this hearing. His leadership and cooperation have been indispensable in this successful, bipartisan effort.
The Chair recognizes Mr. Conyers.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Chairman Hyde. Good morning to the members of the committee, the witnesses, and friends assembled.
I support the observations made by the chairman of this committee and thank him for helping us form what should be a model in terms of how the Congress and the administration work together. President Clinton called in the Governors of the States where there was arson. We were in the White House together.
And the point that I would make before I yield to the gentleman from Virginia is that I can remember when burning churches in the name of opposing civil rights was ''de rigeur.'' It was in season. It was what was done. It was part of the struggle.
This time when we went into the South, there was a clear embarrassment on the part of the people in the States that we visited that the President and Members of the Senate and the Congress would have to come here to witness the charred remains of people still fighting these last efforts at a multicultural society that has been upon us for some time. And so there was a change. The conservative Members of the House of both parties came to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and said, ''Let's go to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury and get the FBI and ATF working on this immediately.'' And everybody came together in I think an excellent way.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Conyers follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
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Last year it seemed that not a day passed that I didn't read of another African-American church that had been burned down somewhere in the south. Not since the 1960s, when the civil rights movement swept the south, and Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacists burned black churches to intimidate and terrorize African-Americans could I recall such a similar wave of church burnings. But there is one big difference between the church burnings of the 1960s and those of the 1990s--the nation's collective response to the burnings.
The progress on the church arson crisis represents a turning point in American history. There was immediate condemnation of the fires from nearly every political corner in the nation. We made progress because America resolved to come together and put an end to a tragedy that was an embarrassment to free society. Those egregious, hateful acts forced us to look into the heart of the nation. Just over a generation ago, this would not have been possible.
Unlike a generation ago, this time the nation was outraged and the politicians and the law enforcement community responded quickly and forcefully. No other issue so galvanized Members of Congress into bi-partisan action last Congress as did the issue of church burnings. Rather than the normal rancorous debate and blame shifting, everyone worked together to find a solution to the problem.
Truly, the response to the blight of church burnings shows America at its best. President Clinton offered incredible leadership using the bully pulpit to focus the nation's attention on the crisis. Moreover, the Congress worked in a rare bipartisan manner to hold hearings and quickly pass legislation to give law enforcement the tools it needed to fight this problem. How often do you see Hyde/Conyers initiatives or Kennedy/Faircloth legislation as we had with the Church Arson Bill? In record time, the Congress passed and the President signed the Church Arson Prevention Act.
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We also saw the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice form a joint task force to respond quickly and effectively to church arson. Both of these agencies have worked alongside local law enforcement agencies to investigate, make arrests, and prosecute church arson cases. At the same time, the Community Relations Service has been going into local communities to help diffuse the sort of tensions that may result in burned churches. And HUD has guaranteed bank loans to assist numerous churches in rebuilding efforts.
And this is just the government response. The response by the private sector has been no less impressive. Numerous organizations, including the National Council of Churches and the Christian Coalition have raised money to rebuild churches and people from all over America have donated money as well as time and manpower to assist in the rebuilding.
The intense national outrage over the burnings as well as the speed with which people came together to rebuild the churches demonstrates that we really have made progress in race relations in America. It's not that we no longer have racism, but at least blatantly racist, destructive acts are no longer tolerated. And when such acts do occur, we as a nation condemn them and work together to overcome them.
I am pleased we are holding this hearing today. It gives us an opportunity to review what we have done, to see what is left to do and to show the American people what government at its best is capable of doing. Whatever we do, we cannot let our success get in the way of vigilance.
Mr. CONYERS. And I would like to yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Virginia who's done great work in this area, Bobby Scott.
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Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Conyers. Mr. Chairman, I join in your praise for the bipartisan manner in which this committee has addressed the church arsons and desecrations. Two churches in my district were victims of this sick intolerance. They were the Glorious Church of God and Christ in Richmond and the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Charles City, VA. These acts of cowardice, though damaging, were not able to break the spirit of these strong and preserving congregations. I'm happy to report that both churches are now back on their feet. A local construction firm donated materials to repair the desecrated Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and Habitat for Humanity is in the process of rebuilding Glorious Church in Richmond.
I'd like to extend my special thank you to Congresswoman Eva Clayton. Ms. Clayton, in a true display of congressional camaraderie, joined me in Richmond to help out in the Habitat rebuilding, and I look forward to someday returning the favor.
Although I'm glad that we have come together to talk about church burnings, you must keep in mind that these church burnings are only the symptoms of a greater disease. Discrimination and intolerance are still all too prevalent in our society today, and this committee needs to study the underlying atmosphere that makes church burnings more common today than in the past. Mr. Chairman, Dr. King once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and so we must address these injustices.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing the witnesses today. It is obvious that the ATF and Justice Department have exerted strong and unprecedented efforts to address this issue. We will hear from many organizations who hear from those who represent groups directly affected by church burnings, and we can hear how they have responded to the ATF and Justice Department efforts.
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So, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and Ranking Member Conyers for your hard work on this issue, and thank you for calling this hearing.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
I will recognize everybody for purposes of an opening statement, if they wish to make one, but I would also admonish that we have two panels of several excellent witnesses who have traveled a long way to be here, and so I would again request that you be as brief as you can, so that we may complete our hearings.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Coble.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Chairman, I will be brief, indeed. I want to reiterate what the gentleman from Virginia said in thanking you and the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers, for all you've done in this area.
There is nothing any more reprehensible, it seems to me, than destroying houses of worship, and many times they're destroyed as a racial message. Many times they're destroyed just out of down-right meanness. I had a church in my district burn but there appeared to be no racial involvement; just two guys out on a lark deciding to burn down a church, and it's reprehensible, indeed.
The contributing causes notwithstanding, I agree with what you said in your opening statement, Mr. Chairman. We need to determine what the appropriate role is for the Federal Government in rebuilding burned churches and in preventing future church arsons. As we examine where we've been in this law, we may determine that it can better be addressed at the State and local level. Conversely, we may determine that the Federal Government may be the appropriate vehicle, but I do think we need to keep that in mind as we proceed on this journey.
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I thank the chairman and yield back my time.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I think in the interest of time, I will pass. I think we've made significant progress, and that's obvious, that we've hopefully addressed some of the causes of the fires, but we've got a long, long way to go, and I hope we don't spend too much time patting ourselves on the back as opposed to looking forward and trying to address some of the significant causes that are still out there which created a climate for these church burnings and which we constantly need to pay attention to.
I'll yield back.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Bryant.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding these hearings, and I will present any statement I may have in the record in the interest of time.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gekas. Do you wish to make an opening statement?
Mr. GEKAS. Yes, I thank the Chair. The purpose of the hearing, of course, is to update us on the progress made since the hearings and markups that we engaged last year, and we're all eager to learn where we are and perhaps adopt even more measures down the line that will consolidate the gains that apparently have been made in the overall problem. I'm willing to listen and to act.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. JENKINS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As a newcomer to the committee and to the Congress, I am just proud to see the accord that exists with respect to this subject matter. It's the one place where I've seen almost total agreement, and it's really a good feeling to know that everybody on this committee and in this Congress feels the same way about those people who would burn churches.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease. I'm sorry, Mr. Hutchinson of Arkansas.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There's a number of points of inquiry I will have on this, but in the interest of time I will save that until after we hear from this distinguished panel. I'm grateful to the chairman for holding these hearings.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. Now the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to listen with great interest, but I do not have an opening statement.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman, and the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, I am anxiously waiting to hear the testimony, and I have no questions.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman, and the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Inglis.
Mr. INGLIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the fact that you're holding these oversight hearings, and particularly think that the passage last time of this bill was a great example of bipartisan cooperation, and something that I hope will pass over into this Congress by way of its spirit. So I appreciate the holding of these hearings.
Mr. HYDE. We thank the gentleman.
Our first witness is Ms. Isabelle Katz Pinzler. Ms. Pinzler serves as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Justice Department Civil Rights Division. There she has the responsibility to guide the Division in its enforcement of Federal statutes and Executive orders that prohibit unlawful discrimination in housing, public accommodations, voting, employment, and education. Prior to assuming that office, Ms. Pinzler served as the Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. In that position, she managed the work of the Division to enforce Federal civil rights laws in the areas of employment and education.
Before coming to the Justice Department, Ms. Pinzler directed the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. She has a bachelor's degree from Goucher College and a law degree from Boston University School of Law.
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Welcome, Ms. Pinzler. We hope you can hold your remarks to 5 minutes. We won't be too strict, but we thank you for coming. Please proceed.
Ms. PINZLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. With your permission, I would like to ask if it would be possible for Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Johnson to go first. It's the way we planned this. Especially since I'm new to this process, he has the more substantive information.
Mr. HYDE. Surely, surely. Our next witness is Mr. James E. Johnson. As Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, Mr. Johnson assists in oversight of the day-to-day operations of the Treasury's law enforcement bureaus, which include, among others, the U.S. Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the U.S. Customs Service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. In addition, he assists with the Department's tariff and trade enforcement.
Until his appointment at Treasury in March 1996, Mr. Johnson served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, prosecuting various criminal actions, including organized crime, tax, Medicare fraud, and narcotics cases. He also served as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. He holds a bachelor's degree and a law degree from Harvard, and despite that, welcome, Mr. Johnson. [Laughter.]
STATEMENT OF JAMES E. JOHNSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, and members of the committee, thank you for inviting us to return and to update the committee on the administration's response to the arsons of houses of worship. Along with my new partner--and we're already working together smoothly--Isabelle Katz Pinzler, I plan to summarize the current status of the investigations and prosecutions coordinated by the National Church Arson Task Force. A more complete accounting of our status is contained in our joint statement, which I would ask to be included in the record of these proceedings.
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Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. JOHNSON. At the outset, Mr. Chairman, all of us in the administration want to commend the Congress, this committee, and you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Conyers, for your leadership in speaking out against church fires, and through the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, giving us additional tools to battle these heinous crimes.
As you know, last June President Clinton initiated a three-part strategy in response to the church burnings: arrest the guilty; rebuild the burned churches, and prevent additional fires. Marshaling the resources of the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, the ATF, and the FBI, the President formed the National Church Arson Task Force to lead the law enforcement effort. He directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to work with the National Council of Churches, the Congress of National Black Churches, and others to coordinate the rebuilding effort, and he tasked the Federal Emergency Management Agency with developing a national prevention initiative. A representative of FEMA is not testifying today, but, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would ask that their report titled, ''Fire Stops With You,'' also be added to this record because it details the national arson prevention initiative, which is relevant to this effort.
[The information follows:]
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 1 TO 18 HERE
Mr. JOHNSON. Arson is a difficult crime to investigate. Evidence burns. With many of these rural churches, there are no eyewitnesses to the crimes. Yet, the National Church Arson Task Force and its partners in State and local law enforcement have made remarkable progress, and I'll just cite a handful of examples.
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The rate of arrests in these church arson cases is 34 percent. That is more than twice the general arrest rate for arsons. Working with State authorities, we have arrested 175 suspects since January 1995. These defendants were responsible for 126 fires at churches and other houses of worship. If you look at the charts to my left, you can see that more than three-quarters of all defendants arrested in the last 2 years were arrested in the months since the formation of the task force. Since January 1995, 68 defendants have been tried and convicted or have pled guilty in Federal and State prosecutions in connection with fires at 55 houses of worship.
Overall, the task force has opened investigations of 369 arsons, bombings, or attempted bombings, that have occurred at houses of worship between January 1, 1995, and March 11, 1997. Task force members have either led or supported the investigations of all reported fires that have occurred at churches or other houses of worship after January 1, 1995.
And as the second chart shows--if we can place the pie chart up on the stand, please--approximately 150 of the fires have been in African-American churches, and three-quarters of these fires have occurred in Southern States.
The results I have described were achieved because of the high degree of coordination between Justice Department attorneys, agents in the ATF, the FBI, and their State and local counterparts. All played a significant role in this effort. Many of these agents and prosecutors have made tremendous personal sacrifices to work on these cases. Some have been detailed to Washington or to Southern States for as many as 7 months, 8 months away from their families. Their dedication to this task has been exemplary. These agents, more than 200, and prosecutors, over 75, are represented here today by the leadership of the church fires operations group. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to recognize the leadership of this group.
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Carla Dobinski--and would the leadership please stand? Carla Dobinski is the director of the operations group of the National Church Arsons Task Force. Donnie Carter is the Deputy Associate Director of the ATF, and Jerry Buten is a supervisory special agent with the FBI. With their actions, these men and this woman before you, and the men and women in the field, have said to the Nation: your right to worship freely is sacred; we will protect that right.
The National Church Arson Task Force works because each of the component agencies brings its resources and unique talents to bear. The ATF is the Nation's premiere investigator of arson incidents and has responded to every reported fire that occurred after January 1, 1995. The expertise of the FBI in conducting civil rights investigations has proved highly beneficial to the success of the task force. The Civil Rights Division has extensive experience in hate crimes prosecutions and investigations, and in enforcing criminal civil rights statutes. The Justice Department also contributed the assistance of the Victim/Witness Coordinators and the Community Relations Service. All of these have been key to our efforts.
In an investigative effort of this size and scope, coordination among Federal agencies and between State and Federal law enforcement has been essential. We are coordinated. We meet on a constant basis here in Washington and in task forces in the field to make sure that the Federal, State, and local components are well aware of the ongoing investigations and are coordinated in their response.
The coordination and the success that I have just described did not take place overnight. Last spring, when Mr. Patrick, the former cochair of the task force and former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and I testified before this committee, concerns were raised that Federal and State investigators were not pursuing all possible leads and were not sensitive to the special circumstances surrounding these investigations. Among those who came to Washington to address this issue was the Rev. Dr. Mac Charles Jones of the National Council of Churches. Dr. Jones had an uncanny ability to combine honest criticism with warm support. With his death 2 weeks ago, we lost a tremendous friend of our efforts.
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Dr. Jones and others raised serious concerns about how we were proceeding and how our investigators were being perceived. Members of this committee questioned the level of coordination, or perhaps even suggested a lack of coordination, among components of the Government. Those questions, those concerns, did not fall on deaf ears.
In light of those concerns, and in light of the mandate from Secretary Rubin and Attorney General Reno that we were to proceed with these cases with all dispatch, that we were to proceed with integrity and sensitivity to these investigations, the task force took several important steps.
First, we modified our investigative approach. The task force issued a protocol for its investigations and prosecutions to ensure that investigators pursued all lines of inquiry, including whether the crime was motivated by racial bias or antireligious bias, and we looked into the question whether or not these crimes were connected. We also urged our investigators to be mindful that in investigating these arsons they would be working with victims whose sense of sanctuary had been violated.
Second, to enhance coordination, we made sure that our agents and prosecutors had an understanding of the different disciplines that would be brought to bear on these cases. ATF experts trained FBI agents and Department of Justice prosecutors in arson investigations. Civil Rights Division prosecutors and FBI experts trained ATF agents in civil rights investigations and prosecutions.
Third, to ensure that all cases were properly tracked and analyzed, the task force created a database of statistical information about ongoing investigations.
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Fourth, in response to concerns that many would not willingly approach Federal law enforcement, the task force established a toll-free tip line. To date, we have received over 2,100 calls on that line, and as Ms. Pinzler will describe in detail, we also engaged in an extensive outreach effort.
Fifth, to assist in the prevention effort, the task force distributed, with the gracious assistance of FEMA, over 300,000 church threat assessment guides containing valuable information on steps that may be taken to prevent additional fires at houses of worship. It also provided guidance on what steps should be taken, should a fire occur.
What have we learned so far? Information relating to an ongoing investigation may not be publicly released before the investigation is concluded. As prosecutors and investigators, we speak through our charges. If we can't prove it, we shouldn't assert it. We can, however, make some preliminary observations from the charges that have been brought and the convictions that have been secured.
The number and proportion of fires at African-American churches have raised the possibility of racial hostility as a motive. Indeed, nine defendants have been convicted of Federal civil rights charges in connection with six fires in Nevada, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Overall, we have uncovered a range of motives--from blatant racism and religious hatred to financial profit, and from personal revenge to burglary and malicious efforts to assault a symbol of authority.
There is still much work to be done before charges are filed in the other cases and before we can rest comfortably with our efforts. While it was the number of fires at African-American churches that brought these crimes to national attention, the task force has investigated, and will continue to investigate and prosecute, attacks on all houses of worship, regardless of their denomination or racial composition.
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Nearly a year ago, we committed to you that we would not let these crimes go unanswered. Then you had only our word; today you have our record. Freedom of worship is one of the most precious of our liberties. We must, and we will, continue to protect it.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much, Mr. Johnson.
Our third witness will be Ms. Jacquie Lawing.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Oh, Ms. Pinzler, you wish to follow?
Ms. PINZLER. Yes.
Mr. HYDE. I thought you wanted to maybe get the benefit of all three, but if you'd like to go now, we'd surely recognize you. [Laughter.]
STATEMENT OF ISABELLE KATZ PINZLER, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Ms. PINZLER. I wouldn't mind that, but I'll go ahead. Thank you.
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Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, members of the committee, I appreciate this opportunity to testify on the reports of the National Church Arson Task Force. As has already been noted, I am the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. As Acting Assistant Attorney General, I cochair the task force with Jim Johnson. Jim has given you an overview of the success of the investigative efforts so far and described how the task force operates. I would like to focus on two aspects of the church arson issue: the task force's outreach to affected communities and our work with Congress to ensure that the investigations and prosecutions go forward with adequate resources and statutory authority.
Without the confidence and cooperation of the victim congregations, many of these investigations would have been destined to fail. The task force took steps early on to ensure a solid working relationship between law enforcement and the affected communities.
Less than a week after being formalized, the task force met with the FBI and ATF special agents-in-charge and U.S. attorneys from the Southeast region to emphasize the critical importance of pursuing the investigations with vigilance, determination, and dispatch, as well as with sensitivity to the needs of the victims. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary of the Treasury Rubin, and Attorney General Janet Reno have worked to bring the church arsons to national attention, speaking out forcefully of the commitment of the Federal Government to solve these cases, and meeting with ministers from the churches burned. Secretary Rubin and Attorney General Reno instructed us to remain in close contact with the affected communities.
Because I am fairly new to this effort, I was very pleased to be able to travel with Jim to western Tennessee just last week to meet with the investigators and prosecutors, as well as with pastors, congregations, and community leaders. Jim and Deval Patrick, the former AAG for Civil Rights, had previously traveled to Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana. This most recent trip to Tennessee gave us, particularly me, a chance to view personally the devastation that the fires have wrought. It also gave us the chance to witness the renewed spirit of communities that have come together to rebuild their houses of worship.
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We went to the Salem Baptist Church in a small town called Fruitland, an African-American church that had been burned in November 1995, and met with congregants, pastors, and community leaders from around that area. We went to the Church of God of the Prophecy, a church with a predominantly white congregation in Dyersberg, TN. That church was burned in July 1996. We also met with the U.S. attorney, ATF agents, FBI agents, and local law enforcement personnel who briefed us on the current investigations in that district.
The Western District of Tennessee has had significant success in investigating church arsons, and we have obtained several convictions. There remain, however, other difficult cases that have not yet been solved in that district, as well as others. Most sadly, there was another fire in Middleton, TN, just last month. These visits highlighted the importance of the community outreach effort.
The support of Congress also has been essential in responding to these crimes. When the task force was formed, the Federal Government had authority under several statutes to investigate and prosecute suspicious fires at houses of worship. These authorities included the Anti-Arson Act of 1982, which makes it a Federal crime to use fire to destroy property used in, or affecting, interstate commerce, and criminal civil rights statutes that made it a Federal crime to desecrate religious real property in a house of worship or to conspire to deprive citizens of their civil rights.
On July 3, 1996, the President signed the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which was sponsored by Chairman Hyde, Congressman Conyers, Senators Faircloth and Kennedy. This statute, passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress, amended 18 U.S. Code 247 to strengthen the criminal law against church burning and desecrations. This new law removed the cumbersome interstate commerce requirement and eliminated the $10,000 damage requirement, and increased the maximum sentence to 20 years imprisonment for arson.
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There have been two successful prosecutions under the amended section 247 so far. One, the July 22, 1996, fire at the Church of God of the Prophecy in Dyersberg, TN, which we visited last week, and the other one for the September 19, 1996, fire at the Church of Christ in Henderson, NV.
The 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act also authorized a HUD loan guarantee program to be used in church rebuilding and authorized additional personnel at the Treasury Department and the Justice Department, including the Community Relations Service, to respond to the fires. Congress has also provided essential resources to our efforts. Congress has appropriated $12 million to support the ATF's role in the task force for fiscal year 1996 and an additional $12 million for fiscal year 1997. Additional funds for task force activities at the Justice Department, the FBI, and CRS were also appropriated or reprogrammed.
The Justice Department has also been able to provide immediate and direct assistance to local jurisdictions through the Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance. Pursuant to the President's directive and congressional approval, BJA awarded grants to counties in 13 States to intensify their enforcement and surveillance efforts around vulnerable houses of worship.
Five hundred and eighty-six counties received $2.7 million in awards. More than half of these funds were used to pay for the overtime costs of increased police and sheriff patrols or to hire additional part-time law enforcement officers. Additional funds were used to pay for security measures such as lighting and security systems and educational efforts aimed at arson prevention.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to the Government efforts to address church arsons, perhaps even more impressive has been the tremendous outpouring of assistance and support from the American people in response to these fires. These attacks have rightly been seen as a threat to our common sense of sanctuary and have generated a shared sense of outrage. People have crossed lines of faith and race and region to engage in a united effort to rebuild and protect our houses of worship. Religious groups, volunteer organizations, unions, insurance companies, financial institutions, and civil rights organizations have all pitched in to tackle this problem.
In conclusion, burning a church may implicate Federal antiarson and civil rights laws and warrants swift and certain investigation and prosecution. The work of the task force continues to be vital to our efforts to prevent these heinous crimes and to prosecute those responsible whether they are motivated by racial hostility, religious bigotry, financial profit, revenge, or simply a desire to burn a symbol of authority in the community.
The commitment of resources and attention to this work by Federal, State, and local authorities has been essential to the success of the task force, and the task force remains dedicated to solving these crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In closing, we would like, again, to note that the administration and Congress have worked together in addressing this issue, and we must continue this unified approach. As the President said last summer, ''We must rise up as a national community to safeguard the right of every citizen to worship in safety.'' That's what America stands for.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson and Ms. Pinzler follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JAMES E. JOHNSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY AND ISABELLE KATZ PINZLER, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today to update the Committee on the efforts of the federal government to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for the deplorable act of setting fire to houses of worship.
At the outset, we want to commend this Committee and Congress for its leadership in speaking out against church fires and helping to bring these incidents to the forefront of national attention. This Committee held hearings on the church fires in May of last year. Those hearings, along with similar hearings the next month in the Senate, highlighted the determination within the Administration and in Congress to do everything possible to investigate these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice, prevent further fires, and assist the victimized congregations to rebuild. We also want to recognize the leadership of the chairman and ranking member in enacting the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which has provided us with additional tools in combating these crimes.
As a result of these combined efforts, we have made remarkable progress.
The rate of arrest (34%) in the church arson cases is double the general arrest rate for arsons (16%). Federal and state authorities have arrested 175 suspects since January 1, 1995, in connection with 126 fires at churches and other houses of worship. Three quarters of all defendants arrested in the last two years were arrested since June 1996, when the President established the National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF or ''Task Force'') to oversee the investigation and prosecutions of incidents of church arson.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSince January 1, 1995, 68 defendants have been convicted in federal and state prosecutions in connection with fires at 55 houses of worship.
Overall, the NCATF has opened investigations of 369 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings that have occurred at houses of worship between January 1, 1995, and March 12, 1997.
Our testimony today will provide the Committee with the current status of the coordinated church fires investigations and prosecutions. Rachel Rowland of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will describe the federal government's efforts in the area of arson prevention, Pat Glenn of the Community Relations Service (CRS) will discuss the services that CRS has provided local communities, and Jacquie Lawing of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will discuss the joint efforts of HUD, the National Council of Churches, the Congress of National Black Churches and others in helping those congregations already victimized by fire.
Last summer, in June 1996, the President established the National Church Arson Task Force, which we co-chair, to formalize the coordination of investigations already underway. The NCATF has brought together the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the FBI, Justice Department prosecutors, victim/witness coordinators, the Community Relations Service and the U.S. Marshals Service, in partnership with state and local officers and prosecutors. Well over 200 ATF and FBI investigators have been deployed and are working with over 75 federal prosecutors and state and local authorities. This is the largest current civil rights investigative effort and one of the largest series of arson investigations in history.
Each of the component agencies of the Task Force brings particular resources and talents to the Task Force efforts. The expertise of ATF in conducting arson investigations, particularly in making cause and origin determinations, and the expertise of the FBI in conducting civil rights investigations has proven highly beneficial to the success of the NCATF. The Civil Rights Division has extensive experience in hate crimes prosecutions and in enforcing the criminal civil rights statutes that are used in prosecuting racially motivated church arsons. CRS and victim/witness coordinators work closely with victim congregations. We have met at least once a week since June of last year with the Task Force representatives, and we report to the President through the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCOORDINATION OF FEDERAL EFFORT
In an investigative effort of this size and scope, coordination among federal agencies and between state and federal law enforcement is essential. To that end, the Attorney General directed United States Attorneys either to establish a local task force focusing on church arsons or to join an existing local task force. These local task forces include state and local law enforcement and fire protection officials, as well as representatives of the ATF, FBI, the Community Relations Service and victim/witness coordinators.
In addition to the local task forces, the NCATF has an operations team in Washington staffed by special agents of the ATF and the FBI and prosecutors on detail from the United States Attorney's Offices around the nation and from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. The director of this operations team is a senior experienced career prosecutor. This team works with the local task forces to investigate incidents, analyze potential connections among incidents, and prosecute cases. Due to the high priority of these matters, many federal cases are prosecuted jointly by an NCATF prosecutor and an Assistant United States Attorney.
The Task Force has taken the following steps in carrying out its responsibilities:
Investigative Protocol. The NCATF has established a protocol for its investigations and prosecutions. This protocol sets forth procedures for immediately exchanging information among task force agencies, developing an investigative plan for each incident, and ensuring that investigators pursue all lines of inquiry, including whether the crime was motivated by race or religion, and whether any given incident is connected to any other.
Unified Database. The NCATF has created a database of statistical information about ongoing investigations. The ATF and FBI databases and computer systems are also used in Task Force operations to track and analyze evidence about attacks on houses of worship and to generate investigative leads.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTraining. Last year, the NCATF conducted training among its constituent agencies. ATF experts trained FBI agents and Department of Justice prosecutors in arson investigations. Civil Rights Division prosecutors and FBI experts trained ATF agents in civil rights investigations and prosecutions.
Tip Line. The NCATF established a toll-free tip line for citizens to report information on church arsons. That toll free number is 1888ATFFIRE. As of March 17, 1997, NCATF had received over 2000 calls through that service. The ATF and FBI also are offering rewards for information in a number of arson cases.
Threat Assessment Guide. The NCATF updated and distributed a Church Threat Assessment Guide containing valuable information on the steps that may be taken to prevent fires at houses of worship and the steps to follow after an incident has occurred. Working with FEMA, the Task Force has distributed over 300,000 of these booklets. OUTREACH
Without the confidence and cooperation of the victim congregations, many of these investigations would have been destined to fail. The NCATF took steps early on to ensure a solid, working relationship between law enforcement and the affected communities.
Less than a week after being formalized, the NCATF met with FBI and ATF Special Agents in Charge and United States Attorneys from the Southeast region to emphasize the critical importance of pursuing the investigations with vigilance, determination and dispatch, as well as with sensitivity to the needs of the victims.
President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin and Attorney General Janet Reno have worked to bring church arsons to national attention, speaking out forcefully of the commitment of the federal government to solve these cases, and meeting with ministers from the churches burned. Secretary Rubin and Attorney General Reno instructed us to remain in close contact with the affected communities.
As part of that effort, last week we traveled to Western Tennessee to meet with investigators and prosecutors, as well as with pastors, congregations and community leaders. This trip again gave us a chance to view personally the devastation that these fires have wrought. It also gave us the chance to witness the renewed spirit of communities that have come together to rebuild their houses of worship.
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We went to the Salem Baptist Church in a small town called Fruitland, an African American church that had been burned in November 1995, and met with congregants, pastors and community leaders from around that area. We went to the Church of God of the Prophesy, a church with a predominantly white congregation in Dyersberg, Tennessee, that was burned in July of 1996. We also met with the United States Attorney, ATF agents, FBI agents, and local law enforcement personnel, who briefed us on the current investigations in the district. The Western District of Tennessee has seen significant success in investigating church arsons, and we have obtained several convictions. There remain, however, other difficult cases that have not as yet been solved. Most sadly, there was another fire in Middleton, Tennessee, just last month.
These visits highlight the importance of community outreach. Working with CRS, the NCATF developed and distributed to every ATE and FBI supervisor and United States Attorney a ''Best Practices'' guide for conducting community outreach activities.
STATUTORY AUTHORITY AND RESOURCES
The support of Congress has been essential in responding to these crimes. When the Task Force was formed, the federal government had authority under several statutes to investigate and prosecute suspicious fires at houses of worship. These authorities include the Anti-Arson Act of 1982, which makes it a federal crime to use fire to destroy property used or affecting interstate commerce (18 U.S.C. 844(i)), and criminal civil rights statutes that make it a federal crime to desecrate religious real property or a house of worship or to conspire to deprive persons of their civil rights (18 U.S.C. 241 and 247).
On July 3, 1996, the President signed the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which was sponsored by Chairman Hyde, Congressman Conyers, and Senators Faircloth and Kennedy. This statute, passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress, amended 18 U.S.C. 247, to strengthen the criminal law against church burning and desecration. The new law removed a cumbersome interstate commerce requirement, eliminated a $10,000 damage requirement, and increased the maximum sentence to 20 years imprisonment for arson.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There have been two successful prosecutions under the amended Section 247 so far: one for the July 22, 1996, fire at the Church of God of the Prophesy in Dyersberg, Tennessee, and one for the September 19, 1996, fire at the Church of Christ in Henderson, Nevada.
The 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act also authorized a HUD loan guarantee program that can be used for church rebuilding, and authorized additional personnel at the Treasury Department and the Justice Department, including the Community Relations Service, to respond to the fires.
Congress has also provided essential resources for our efforts. In August 1996, in a supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 1996, Congress provided $12 million dollars to support ATF's role in the Task Force. Congress appropriated an additional $12 million dollars in ATF's fiscal year 1997 direct funding to support arson investigations, particularly those directed toward religious institutions. Additional funds for Task Force activities by the Justice Department, the FBI and CRS were also appropriated or reprogrammed.
The Justice Department has also been able to provide immediate and direct assistance to local jurisdictions through the Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Pursuant to the President's directive and congressional approval, BJA awarded grants to counties in 13 states to intensify their enforcement and surveillance efforts around vulnerable houses of worship. The states were: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Five hundred and eighty six counties received over $2.7 million in awards. More than half of these funds were used to pay the overtime costs of increased police and sheriff patrols, or to hire additional part-time law enforcement officers. Additional funds were used to pay for security measures, such as lighting and security systems, and educational efforts aimed at arson prevention.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to the government effort to address church arsons, perhaps even more impressive has been the tremendous outpouring of assistance and support from the American people in response to these fires. These attacks are rightly seen as a threat to our common sense of sanctuary and have generated a shared sense of outrage. People have crossed lines of faith, race and region to engage in a united effort to rebuild and protect our houses of worship. Religious groups, volunteer organizations, unions, insurance companies, financial institutions, and civil rights organizations have all pitched in to tackle this problem. We would like to recognize one person in particular, whose efforts have inspired all of us to work that much harder in responding to this call. Reverend Mac Charles Jones was a principal leader for the Burned Churches Fund at the National Council of Churches. Mac died just last week, and the world is diminished by his loss. We mourn the loss of a forceful leader, a constructive critic, and a friend.
RESULTS TO DATE
The men and women of the ATF, FBI, the Treasury and Justice Departments, together with their partners in local law enforcement have had striking success. The Task Force has opened investigations of 369 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings that have occurred at houses of worship between January 1, 1995, and March 12, 1997. This number does not include vandalism or other desecration at houses of worship, which continue to be investigated and prosecuted by the FBI, the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorneys. Nor does it include fires that the investigators have determined are accidental. Of these 369 arson investigations, at least 155 have been fires at African American churches. Three quarters of the fires at African American churches have occurred in the southern United States.
As a result of the exceptional partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement, many of the incidents investigated have been solved, mainly by a combination of federal and state arrests and prosecutions. Since January 1995, arrests of 175 suspects have been made in connection with 126 fires at churches and other houses of worship. This rate of arrest (341) is significantly higher than the general arrest rate for arsons, which is approximately 16', according to Department of Justice statistics. Since the formation of the Task Force, the number of arrests has increased significantly. One hundred and thirty persons, representing three quarters of all defendants arrested since January 1995, were arrested following the June 1996 formation of the Task Force.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The 175 arrests have led to a number of convictions. Since January 1, 1995, 68 defendants have been convicted in federal and state prosecutions in connection with fires at 55 houses of worship. All but two of the remaining cases are still pending trial.(see footnote 1) These prosecutions include the first convictions under the 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. 247, as amended.
Federal charges are pending in a number of cases, and grand jury investigations are ongoing in many others. State prosecutions also have been initiated in consultation with federal prosecutors or investigators. The NCATF actively monitors these prosecutions to ensure that any federal interest is vindicated and to ensure that accurate information is compiled regarding law enforcement's response to attacks on houses of worship.
There are still many cases that have yet to be solved, however, and new fires continue to occur. Arson cases are among the most difficult criminal cases to solve. Forensic evidence is often destroyed with the fire. Moreover, because some of the churches burned are located in isolated, rural areas, there are often no eye witnesses to the incident. For these reasons, it can often take years to solve arson cases.
The Task Force remains committed to expending the necessary time, resources and effort to solving these crimes and prosecuting those who are responsible.
As you know, information relating to ongoing investigations may not be publicly released before the investigation is concluded. Thus, we are constrained in the information we can provide. We can, however, make some preliminary observations from the charges we have brought so far.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The number and proportion of fires at African American churches have raised the possibility of racial hostility as a motive. Indeed, nine defendants have been convicted of federal civil rights charges in connections with six fires in Nevada, Tennessee and South Carolina. We have found overall, however, that there have been a range of motives, from blatant racism and religious hatred to financial profit, to personal revenge, burglary or vandalism.
There is still much work to be done before charges are filed in other cases. While it was the number of fires at African American churches that brought these crimes to national attention, the NCATF will continue to investigate and prosecute attacks on all houses of worship, regardless of their denomination or racial composition.
Burning a church may implicate federal anti-arson and civil rights laws and warrants swift and certain investigation and prosecution. The work of the NCATF continues to be vital to our efforts to prevent these heinous crimes, and to prosecute those responsible, whether they are motivated by racial hostility, religious bigotry, financial profit, revenge, or simply a desire to burn down a symbol of authority in the community. The commitment of resources and attention to this work by federal, state and local authorities has been essential to the success of the Task Force, and the Task Force remains dedicated to solving these crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In closing, we would again like to note that the Administration and Congress have worked together in addressing this issue. We must continue our unified approach. As the President said last summer: ''We must rise up as a national community to safeguard the right of every citizen to worship in safety. That is what America stands for.''
Mr. HYDE. We thank the gentlelady.
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Our third witness will be Ms. Jacquie Lawing. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she will provide the committee with information about her Department's role in the national rebuilding initiative. Ms. Lawing has the task of administering a loan guarantee fund to assist with the rebuilding of nonprofit institutions, including churches damaged by arson or terrorism.
In addition, Ms. Lawing administers all of the Department's homeless programs, including the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs. She's a graduate of the University of Tennessee.
Welcome, Ms. Lawing.
STATEMENT OF JACQUIE M. LAWING, GENERAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Ms. LAWING. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to represent the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Andrew Cuomo, in testifying today regarding HUD's role in the national rebuilding initiative. I'm pleased to join the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, and DOJ's Community Relations Service in updating you on the progress of the adjunct response to church burnings in this country.
HUD joins with others in commending this committee and other Members of Congress for your leadership on this issue. Since January 1995, we have learned today that as many as 369 fires, bombings, or attempted bombings have occurred at houses of worship in this country. At least 150 of the 369 fires have been in African-American churches. Many of these fires have been set by arsonists apparently often motivated by intolerance and hatred.
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Mr. Chairman, strong communities must rise up against intolerance of any kind. As the President has said, ''Arson attacks on churches are an affront to basic liberty and religious tolerance, posing a challenge not just to those houses of worship that are burned, but to the entire Nation and our future as a common community.''
The enactment of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 and President Clinton's creation of the Church Arson Task Force mobilized a wide array of Federal resources to apprehend those responsible, to prevent future fires from occurring, and to repair and rebuild. HUD is proud to have a role in providing financial, technical, and other support to aid churches in the rebuilding process. The work begun under the strong leadership of Secretary Henry Cisneros is now being continued under Secretary Andrew Cuomo.
Under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development was given authority to administer a $10 million loan guarantee fund to assist with the rebuilding of nonprofit institutions, including churches, damaged by arson and terrorism. The Office of Community Planning and Development, under the direction of then-Assistant Secretary Cuomo, recognized that in order to maximize the opportunity presented by the loan guarantee and relief package, organizations from around the country should be involved in the rebuilding effort.
Before churches and other nonprofit organizations could apply for a loan, they informed us that they needed help in completing the loan applications, and even more in establishing workable rebuilding plans. Then-Assistant Secretary Cuomo facilitated the creation of the National Rebuilding Task Force, bringing private, public, and nonprofit resources to the table to aid in the rebuilding effort. This coordination and these resources are enabling places of worship to establish workable rebuilding plans and to have all information necessary to effectively use the loan guarantee.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As you know, the Federal response to the church arson fires is focused in three areas: enforcement, prevention, and rebuilding. HUD has taken a lead in rebuilding. Through the Office of Community Planning and Development, HUD is working to support the rebuilding of affected churches and nonprofit facilities in three ways: administering loan guarantees, cochairing, along with the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches, the National Rebuilding Task Force, and sponsoring or participating in regional conferences.
The loan guarantee program was signed into law as part of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. The purpose of the program is to guarantee private sector loans to assist nonprofit organizations in financing the rebuilding of facilities damaged or destroyed by arson or terrorism, including churches. The act allows the Secretary of HUD to guarantee up to an aggregate principal of $10 million in private sector loans, and HUD administers the credit subsidy of $5 million, and that's the security.
HUD has established terms and conditions for the guarantees and other program requirements, and will guarantee up to 100 percent of any amount of a loan. Although the availability of Federal loan funds offers an important option to churches that are short on capital necessary to rebuild, many churches shared with HUD that they need increased technical capacity to complete loan fund applications and to formulate a plan for financing the rebuilding process. As you can understand, some churches are unable or reluctant to take on additional debt burdens. The National Rebuilding Task Force launched a series of regional conferences to help organizations understand and effectively use the loan guarantee. It also helped us to couple the loan guarantee with the fundraising efforts launched by the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches.
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Mr. Chairman, one of the most exciting results of the national rebuilding initiative has been the formation of a National Partnership for Rebuilding. The National Rebuilding Task Force coordinates all aspects of the rebuilding effort and is cochaired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Council of Churches, and the Congress of National Black Churches. The partners are working together not only in disseminating information and sponsoring conferences, but also in working with the churches on a one-on-one assessment of congregations impacted by the burnings. This process includes assessments of the financial support system each place of worship needs to rebuild.
Resources available through the national rebuilding initiative include grants, low-interest loans, materials and in-kind donations, volunteers, legal assistance, architectural design, and insurance services, as well as hate crimes counseling and arson prevention programs.
Key to the success of the Rebuilding Task Force is the wide array of partners it involves. Private sector entities and nonprofit entities such as Habitat for Humanity worked side-by-side with HUD in a series of regional conferences designed to ensure that affected churches and nonprofits receive all the assistance they need to rebuild and understand and effectively use the loan guarantee program.
In the fall of 1996, HUD sponsored or participated in five regional conferences in cities like Memphis, TN, and Columbia, SC, which provided information about HUD's loan guarantee program as well as other aspects of rebuilding. Each conference offered different sessions with expert panelists providing construction and architectural advice, as well as loan application assistance. HUD coordinated the conferences with the other Federal agencies, Governors' offices, and many other organizations, including the National Councils of Churches, Habitat for Humanity, and Enterprise Foundation, and the American Institute of Architects. This collaboration on training conferences was just one example of the overall multiagency collaboration of the Rebuilding Task Force.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
At these conferences we saw all sectors of the community come together to help rebuild the houses of worship. the faith community, the business community, the civil rights community, nonprofits, and the governmental community have all taken a role in assisting the rebuilding process.
While administering the Federal loan guarantee program, HUD has worked with its partners to leverage additional financial resources to support the rebuilding. The National Council of Churches has been an integral partner to the national rebuilding initiative, raising over $7 million in direct and in-kind contributions to support the rebuilding efforts. NCC has provided direct rebuilding grants, as well as in-kind materials, such as lumber and other building materials, pews, choir robes, and hymnals. In addition, NCC has joined with Habitat for Humanity to provide a network of volunteer specialists and labor to assist us with all aspects of the rebuilding efforts.
On January 27, this year, the Congress of National Black Churches launched a $12 million initiative to complement the efforts of the national rebuilding effort. CNBC plans to provide rebuilding assistance to 50 churches over the next 3 years. I'm sure we'll hear more about that shortly.
The rebuilding initiative has operated on two levels. First, it brought communities, national organizations, governmental entities, and others together to address this tragedy in a coordinated fashion, thereby strengthening the results. Second, it has enabled HUD, NCC, and CNBC to galvanize our resources, thereby in hopes of maximizing the impact of the individual commitments.
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In summary, since the passage and signing of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, HUD has implemented regulations and published them in September 1996; they became effective in October 1996. The public/private partnership has made available a variety of resources for rebuilding our places of worship. This partnership has held three major organizational meetings, five regional conferences, and a total of 70 onsite assessments. The assessments have been conducted by HUD, as well as our partners.
The national rebuilding initiative has come into contact with 124 churches during phase one with of this effort with the following results: 54 churches are eligible for a blended resources package consisting of HUD loan guarantees, NCC grant assistance, as well as volunteer and in-kind assistance. Six churches are eligible for HUD loan guarantees as the only form of assistance. Twenty-nine churches have received NCC grant assistance only. Twenty-five churches, it has been determined, no longer have a need of assistance due to the assistance that they've been able to galvanize, and 12 churches have been referred to phase 2 of this effort.
Churches that have been destroyed recently have been targeted for help in phase 2 of the national rebuilding initiative. Approximately 30 churches have asked for assessments which will make up the preliminary phase two list.
Grants from the NCC have been made or allocated to 79 places of worship, composing about $7 million. Sixty churches have been rebuilt or are under construction, and 64 are in the preplanning stage. Now that many assessments of damage and refinancing needs have been completed, we expect even more results in implementation of the rebuilding plans. We are now really seeing our loan guarantee plan being utilized and have determined that we need to work more closely with banks and other financial institutions, encourage them to make loans to affected nonprofit organizations.
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In closing, Vice President Gore demonstrated true insight when he said, ''Communities will become stronger as a result of the tragedy they face.'' As you can see by all testimony today, communities have pulled together to address this issue. The national rebuilding initiative is committed to providing the resources to rebuild not just the physical structure, but also to heal broken relationships and begin new ones.
HUD Secretary Cuomo looks forward to continuing to work with our national partners--the Departments of Treasury and Justice, FEMA, and Members of Congress--to ensure that the Nation's churches and communities are successfully and sustainably rebuilt. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Lawing follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JACQUIE LAWING, GENERAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to represent Secretary Andrew Cuomo in speaking with you today regarding HUD's role in the National Rebuilding Initiative. I am pleased to join the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of the Treasury, and the Community Relations Service (CRS) in updating you on the progress of the adjunct response to church burnings. HUD joins with others in commending this committee and other members of Congress for your leadership on this issue.
Since January 1995, 369 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings have occurred at places of worship in this country. At least 155 of the 369 arsons have been in African-American churches. Mr. Chairman, strong communities must rise up against intolerance of any specific group. The enactment of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 and President Clinton's creation of the Church Arson Task Force signify the nation's intolerance for this type of hate crime. As the President has said, arson attacks on churches are an affront to basic liberty and religious tolerance, posing a challenge not just to those houses of worship that are burned, but to the entire nation and our future as a common community.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC HUD is proud to have a role in providing financial, technical and other support to aid churches in the rebuilding process. The work begun under the strong leadership of Secretary Henry Cisneros is now being continued under Secretary Cuomo. Under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development was given authority to administer a $10 million loan guarantee fund to assist with the rebuilding of non-profit institutions, including churches, damaged by arson or terrorism.
The Office of Community Planning and Development, under the direction of thenAssistant Secretary Cuomo, recognized that in order to maximize the opportunity presented by the loan guaranty and relief package, organizations from around the country should be involved in the rebuilding effort. Before churches and other non-profit organizations could apply for a loan, they needed help completing loan applications and even more, in establishing workable rebuilding plans. Assistant Secretary Cuomo facilitated the creation of the National Rebuilding Task Force, bringing private, public and non-profit resources to the table to aid in the rebuilding effort. This coordination and these resources are enabling places of worship to establish workable rebuilding plans and to have all information necessary to effectively use the loan guaranty.
THE NATIONAL REBUILDING INITIATIVE
As you know, the Federal response to the church arson fires is focused in three areas: enforcement, prevention, and rebuilding. HUD has taken a lead in rebuilding. Through the Office of Community Planning and Development, HUD is working to support the rebuilding of affected churches and non-profit facilities in three ways: 1) administering loan guarantees; 2) co-chairing, along with the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches, the National Rebuilding Task Force, and 3) sponsoring regional conferences.
Loan Guarantee Program. The Loan Guarantee Program was signed into law as part of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. The purpose of the program is to guarantee private sector loans to assist nonprofit organizations in financing the rebuilding of facilities damaged or destroyed by arson or terrorism, including churches. The Act allows the Secretary of HUD to guarantee up to an aggregate principal of $10 million in private sector loans, including a credit subsidy of $5 million.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC HUD has established terms and conditions for the guarantees, and other program requirements and will guarantee up to 100% of the amount of the loan.
Although the availability of Federal loan funds offers an important option to churches that are short on capital necessary to rebuild, many churches shared with HUD that they need increased technical capacity to complete loan fund applications and to formulate a plan for financing a rebuilding process. As you can understand, some churches are unable or reluctant to take on additional debt burdens. The National Rebuilding Task Force launched a series of Regional Conferences to help organizations understand and effectively use the guaranty fund.
National Rebuilding Task Force. Mr. Chairman, one of the most exciting results of the National Rebuilding Initiative has been the formation of a national partnership for rebuilding. The National Rebuilding Task Force coordinates all aspects of the rebuilding effort and is co-chaired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches. The partners are working together not only in disseminating information and sponsoring conferences but also in working one-on-one with each congregation impacted by the burnings. This process includes assessments of the financial support system each place of worship needs to rebuild.
Resources available through the National Rebuilding Initiative include: grants, low-interest loans, materials and in-kind donations, volunteers, pro-bono professional legal, architectural design, and insurance services, as well as hate crimes counseling and arson prevention programs.
Key to the success of the rebuilding task force is the wide array of partners it involves. Private sector entities and non-profit entities, such as Habitat for Humanity, worked side-by-side with HUD in a series of regional conferences designed to ensure that affected churches and non-profits receive all the assistance that they need to rebuild.
Regional Conferences. In the Fall of 1996, HUD held five regional conferences, in cities like Memphis, TN and Columbia, SC, which provided information about HUD's loan guarantee program as well as other aspects of rebuilding. Each conference offered different sessions with expert panelists, providing construction and architectural advice as well as loan application assistance. HUD coordinated the conferences with other Federal agencies, the Governors' offices and many other organizations, including the National Council of Churches, Habitat for Humanity, the Enterprise Foundation and the American Institute of Architects. This collaboration on training conferences was just one example of the overall multi-agency collaboration of the National Rebuilding Task Force. At these conferences, we saw all sectors of the community come together to help rebuild the houses of worship: the faith community, the business community, the non-profit community and the governmental community have all taken a role in assisting the rebuilding process.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCADDITIONAL SOURCES OF FINANCING THROUGH THE TASK FORCE
While administering the Federal loan guarantee program, HUD has worked with its partners on the National Rebuilding Task Force to leverage additional financial resources to support rebuilding. As you might imagine, some churches are reluctant to take on additional debt, making it necessary for the Task Force to seek alternative sources of funds.
The National Council of Churches (NCC) has been an integral partner to the National Rebuilding Initiative, raising over $7 million in direct and in-kind contributions to support the rebuilding efforts. NCC has provided direct rebuilding grants as well as in-kind materials such as lumber and other building materials, pews, choir robes and hymnals. In addition, NCC has joined with Habitat for Humanity to provide a network of volunteer specialists and laborers to assist with all aspects of the rebuilding efforts.
On January 27, 1997, the Congress of National Black Churches (CNBC) launched a $12 million initiative to complement the efforts of the National Rebuilding Initiative. CNBC plans to provide rebuilding assistance to 50 churches over the next three years. As a partner in the National Rebuilding Initiative, CNBC plans to coordinate these efforts with the rebuilding efforts already underway.
The Rebuilding Initiative has operated on two levels: first, it brought communities, nations organizations, government and others together to address this tragedy in a coordinated fashion, thereby strengthening their results. Second, it has enabled HUD, NCC and CNBC to galvanize their resources, thereby maximizing the impact of their individual commitments.
RESULTS TO DATE
In summary, since the passage and signing of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996,
Implementing regulations were published in September 1996 and became effective in October 1996;
The public-private partnership has made available a variety of resources for the rebuilding of places of worship. The partnership has held 3 major organizational meetings, 5 regional conferences and a total of 70 on-site assessments.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe National Rebuilding Initiative has come into contact with 124 churches during Phase One with the following results:
54 churches are eligible for a blended resources package consisting of HUD loan guarantees, NCC grant assistance, as well as volunteer and in-kind assistance
6 churches are eligible for HUD loan guarantee assistance
29 churches have received NCC grant assistance only
25 churches need no assistance
12 churches have been referred to Phase Two Churches that have been destroyed recently have been targeted for help in Phase Two of the National Rebuilding Initiative. Approximately 30 churches have asked for assessments, which will make up the preliminary Phase Two list.
Grants from NCC have been made or allocated to 79 places of worship, composing about $7 million.
60 churches have been rebuilt or are under construction and 64 are in the pre-planning stage.
Now that assessments have been done, we expect even more results and implementation of rebuilding plans.
Vice-President Gore demonstrated true insight when he said communities ''will become stronger'' as a result of the tragedy they faced. As you can see by all testimony today, communities have pulled together to address this issue. The National Rebuilding Initiative is committed to providing the resources to rebuild not just the physical structure, but also to heal broken relationships and begin new ones. HUD Secretary Cuomo looks forward to continuing to work with our national partners, Treasury, Justice, FEMA, and members of Congress to ensure that the nation's churches and communities are successfully and sustainably rebuilt.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our final witness on panel one is Ms. Patricia Campbell Glenn. Ms. Glenn will share with us this morning her experience as the National Coordinator of the Church Burnings Response Team for the Community Relations Service at the Department of Justice.
Ms. Glenn, the Regional Director for its New York office, has been with the Community Relations Service since 1978. She's currently on detail to the Washington, DC, office. Ms. Glenn has taught dispute resolution at the University of Conflictology in Moscow, Russia; hate crime response with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA, and has designed and implemented a conflict resolution program at Kane College, Union, NJ, for educators, administrators, and students in the Newark public school system. She has received her bachelor of science degree from the Ohio State University and is currently pursuing graduate studies in communication at Montclair State University.
We certainly welcome Ms. Glenn and look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF PATRICIA GLENN, NATIONAL COORDINATOR, CHURCH BURNING RESPONSE TEAM, COMMUNITY RELATIONS SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Ms. GLENN. Mr. Chairman, Representative Conyers, and members of the committee, good morning. Thank you for the invitation to participate in this hearing, to share with you the Community Relations Service experience in responding to the Nation's church burning crisis as part of the President's comprehensive response in attacking this very serious problem.
Other Federal agencies have already testified about their role in investigation and prosecution of criminal acts and about Federal programs to help rebuild the damaged and destroyed churches. In my remarks, I would like to touch on the Community Relations Service mission to help officials and citizens find ways to ease tensions and establish new ways to work together.
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On behalf of Rose Ochi, Director-Designate of CRS, I would like to express our appreciation to the Congress, and especially the leadership of this committee, for their response to this national challenge.
The Community Relations Service has a very specific mandate. It was created by title 10 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to assist local communities experiencing racial conflicts and tension, and to prevent further escalation of destructive racial violence. Our work is confidential, and we are third party neutrals; i.e., we are peace brokers.
In response to the President's call for a comprehensive and coordinated Federal approach, the Community Relations Service mobilized the Church Burning Response Team staffed by 10 former CRS conciliators drawn from other agencies. We have concentrated our work on those communities where black churches have been burned or desecrated, the sites where there is the greatest potential for racial conflict. As we know, the black church has been the backbone of the black experience--more than just a place of worship, but that which sustains and endures through struggle and strife.
Director-Designate Ochi established four teams--four goals for the team. No. 1, to resolve racial conflicts and reduce racial tensions in those communities in which fires occurred. Two, to reduce the likelihood of new church burnings in vulnerable communities through multiracial cooperative efforts. Three, to create healthy relationships between law enforcement agencies and minority communities affected by the burnings. Four, to support the mission of the National Arson Task Force.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We conducted onsite assessments, and our onsite assessments revealed different reasons for racial tensions and conflict--suspicions of a race-related conspiracy, concerns over the pace of the investigation, and perceptions that investigators were biased or insensitive, misunderstandings between law enforcement agencies and the minority communities, and, finally, access to insurance and building loans. I would briefly like to illustrate some of the CRS services.
Conciliation activities: In Tigrett, TN, CRS successfully mediated a dispute over the denial of a building permit due to unsuitable soil conditions. The conciliator worked with the State and local officials, church members, in an effort to reach an agreement. A new church is now under construction.
An internal dispute between parishioners threatened to disrupt the rebuilding effort in Dillon, SC. CRS mediated the dispute with the assistance of the bishop, thereby restoring calm to the community and reducing tension.
Our conciliator in Houston, TX, has mediated cases in San Antonio, Austin, East Texas, and I received a call from him this morning when he informed me that yet another black church was burned last night. He is currently onsite in Houston preparing to meet with the ministers, officials, and law enforcement.
Racial tensions were eased in Boligee, AL, after CRS facilitated a dialog between city council and black residents, and a community group was formed to continue the efforts.
Our experiences in Rocky Mount, NC, and Roanoke, VA, illustrate the value of bringing communities and law enforcement together to exchange information and explore cultures. During our assessments, it was revealed that law enforcement wanted training programs to improve their management of community conflicts and to organizations and communities. We are currently working with the Department of Justice's, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and FEMA in organizing training for State and local law enforcement agencies.
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In June 1997, CRS will join with the U.S. attorney, the FBI, ATF, and others in Birmingham, AL, to conduct training in arson prevention, community conflict, and hate crime awareness. A similar seminar will be held in Macon, GA, later this year.
The Community Relations Service takes pride in the important work that it has rendered over the past 8 months to more than 150 communities affected by church burnings. The experience has demonstrated that people of good will can and do make a difference when they work together. A new fabric can be woven, different but stronger. As devastating as these attacks have been, they have proven to be challenges for these communities to discover their own strengths.
Again, thank you for your support and this opportunity to share our contributions to this important endeavor.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Glenn follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PATRICIA GLENN, NATIONAL COORDINATOR, CHURCH BURNING RESPONSE TEAM, COMMUNITY RELATIONS SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Patricia Glenn and I am the National Coordinator of the Church Burnings Response Team for the Community Relations Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Thank you for the invitation to participate in this hearing and to report to you on the role of the Community Relations Service (CRS) in responding to the Nation's church burning crisis. You have heard testimony from other Federal agencies about the investigation and prosecution of the criminal acts, and learned about Federal programs to help rebuild the damaged and destroyed churches.
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I would like to tell you about a corollary Federal service provided over the past eight months to more than 125 towns and cities--helping officials and citizens find ways to ease racial tensions and establish new ways of working together. CRS has played a complementary role as part of the President's National Church Arson Task Force. On behalf of Rose Ochi, Director Designate of CRS, I would like to express our appreciation to the Congress, and especially the leadership of this Committee, for their bipartisan support for a comprehensive national response to this challenge.
Let me begin by providing you with a brief explanation of our agency's mission. CRS was created by Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the Act, the agency is mandated to assist local communities to resolve debilitating racial conflicts and tensions, and prevent destructive racial violence.
In 1996, CRS, downsized to just 34 conflict resolution professionals across the country, responded to requests from Governors, Mayors, and other community leaders in more than 800 cases of community racial conflict. CRS, viewed by our customers as the nation's premier conflict resolution experts, is the Justice Department's ''peacemaker'' for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences over race, color, and national origin.
Recently, CRS conciliation specialists responded to the deadly violence and costly disturbances in Los Angeles, California; Crown Heights, New York; and St. Petersburg and Miami, Florida. In these cities and many others, CRS was ''in the streets'' helping police, local officials, and community leaders to end the violence and begin constructive dialogue. Once stability was restored, CRS provided technical assistance and training to avert new violence and improve police-community relations.
So when the President called for a coordinated and comprehensive Federal response to the burning of houses of worship, it was appropriate that CRS should be called on to be a principal partner in the Federal response. In response to the President's call and under the leadership of Director Designate Rose Ochi, CRS mobilized a Church Burning Response Team (CBRT). It is chaired by Ozell Sutton, our Atlanta Regional Director; coordinated in Washington by a National Coordinator; and staffed by conciliation specialists drawn from our Regional offices, detailees from other Justice components, and former CRS mediators.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CRS Church Burning Response Team has focused its work on those communities where Black churches have been burned or desecrated--the sites where there is the greatest potential for racial conflict. CRS recognizes that not all Black church arsons are motivated by racism and that some may have been accidental or motivated by other reasons. However, quite often there are heightened racial tensions in black communities when houses of worship are burned.
The burning of Black churches brought back memories of the waves of terror during the 1960's when the attacks upon African-American churches were calculated acts of violence to disrupt the movement for racial justice. CBRT Chairman Sutton put the church fires in perspective in a Congressional briefing in September 1996, when he said ''A Black church to the African-American community is far more than a place of worship. It is an attack on the very soul of the African-American community. It is the source of their sense of humanity, their sense of self-worth, their fighter for dignity and equality, their leader and trainer in the struggle for freedom and justice.''
To date, conciliation specialists on the CRS Response Team have helped ease racial tensions over the church fires in more than 125 rural, suburban, and urban communities. They work ''on the ground'' with local communities helping to eliminate racial distrust and polarization, promote multiracial cooperative rebuilding efforts, train law enforcement and community leaders, and create partnerships between minority communities and law enforcement.
This effort would not have been possible without the leadership of Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary Robert Rubin, and the bipartisan support of this Committee and other members of Congress. Our ability to respond is directly linked to Congressional approval of the Attorney General's request to reprogram Department of Justice funds to underwrite the work of the CRS Church Burning Response Team. These additional funds were necessary because the Agency's staff had been reduced from 90 to 41 employees in fiscal year 1997.
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With your approval, I would like to submit to this Committee for the record our ''Interim Report on the Activities of the CRS Church Burning Response Team.'' The Interim Report describes the Response Team's mission, goals, activities, and accomplishments. Let me summarize briefly for you the contents of that report.
Director Designate Ochi established four goals for the CBRT:
(1) To resolve racial conflicts and reduce racial tensions in those communities in which the fires occurred;
(2) To create healthy relationships between law enforcement agencies and minority communities affected by the burnings;
(3) To reduce the likelihood of new church burnings in vulnerable communities through multiracial cooperative efforts; and
(4) To support the mission of the National Church Arson Task Force, by keeping lines of communication open among all the various agencies, groups, and individuals working on the church burnings.
CRS services are based on the application of established conflict resolution practices and procedures. The type of service provided by CRS is determined by the results of an on-site assessment of racial tensions in a community. CRS conciliators meet with elected and public officials, police chiefs, school heads, community leaders, clergy, and others. Based on these discussions, CRS gains an understanding of the history and dynamics of race relations in the community where the fires occurred and learns about the impact of such an event on current race relations. When racial conflict or tension is apparent, and local officials and community leaders are willing to work together in programs and activities to improve racial understanding and cooperation, CRS goes to work.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Assessments conducted in the church burning cases revealed different reasons for racial tensions and conflict. In some communities, there were suspicions that a racist conspiracy was behind the burning of Black churches. In others, there was concern over the pace of the investigations and perceptions that investigators were biased or insensitive. Sometimes tensions resulted from misunderstandings or miscommunication among Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, and also, between law enforcement agencies and local minority groups and clergy. For some communities, tensions revolved around access to insurance and building loans or the best way to undertake a rebuilding effort. In other communities, there were no detectable racial tensions; levels of communication, trust, and cooperation were high.
The potential for racial tension and conflict is present not merely during the immediate aftermath of a church fire, but throughout each step of the criminal justice process. The arrest, indictment, conviction, and sentencing of a church arsonist or vandal are all potential flashpoints for racial tension or conflict. Anger may be directed at the person arrested, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, grand jury, jury, or a judge. The source of conflict often can be over differences of perception between officials and citizens. Without good ways to bridge these differences, racial tensions can escalate and conflicts may occur. In anticipation of these possibilities, the National Church Arson Task Force issued guidance to law enforcement agencies on Best Practices to reduce the prospect of negative reactions.
There are five services which the CRS Church Burning Response Team has provided local communities:
The first service is to mediate community conflicts. For example, in Tennessee, CRS helped two communities settle conflicts over the rebuilding of their churches. When the Tigrett Mount Pleasant Baptist Church's application for a building permit was denied due to unsuitable soil conditions, CRS worked with the church's minister, and county and State officials to reach a settlement which cleared the way for new construction. In Columbia, Tennessee, CRS mediated an agreement between the Friendship Baptist Church and city government over the location for the new church.
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The second service is to ease racial tensions by facilitating dialogues between concerned officials and citizens. In the aftermath of two church burnings in Boligee, Alabama, CRS facilitated a dialogue between the City Council and black residents. This effort eased tensions and opened discussions between black and white citizens and between black and white government officials in Greene County. As a result, a community group formed the ''Rebuilding Community Relations Task Force,'' which will sponsor community projects exemplifying racial cooperation, including a ''Fourth of July Homecoming Celebration'' and renovation of the historic county court house as a cultural center and museum.
The third service is to design and present training programs for law enforcement and other public agencies. Our assessments revealed that State and local law enforcement agencies wanted training programs to improve their management of community conflicts and to strengthen their relationship with local minority organizations and communities. CRS is working with the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance and FEMA in organizing training for State and local law enforcement agencies. CRS will offer training programs requested by local and State law enforcement agencies on effective response to bias-motivated crimes and sound community relations practices.
Alabama was the site of the first statewide training meeting. On October 24, 1996, CRS, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Alabama Sheriffs' Association convened its first meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. More than 30 law enforcement representatives from State, county, and local agencies discussed how to work together to respond to the needs of citizens and churches victimized by church burnings. In June 1997, CRS will join with the U.S. Attorney and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in the Northern District of Alabama, to conduct training in arson prevention, community conflict resolution, and hate crime awareness.
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The fourth service is to provide information about programs and services available to rebuild the churches. The CRS Church Burning Response Team has assembled information about church rebuilding programs available from charitable organizations and government agencies, including the Federal Loan Guarantee Recovery Fund administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Many of the affected churches are located in remote areas, have small memberships and limited resources, and are unfamiliar with the government processes associated with funding applications. At conferences in Tennessee and North Carolina, CRS provided information on sources, processes, and contact points for rebuilding funds.
The fifth service is to provide technical assistance on the establishment of church arson prevention programs. For example, in Houston and San Antonio, Texas, CRS helped establish community education seminars on church arson prevention. Community and religious leaders, and representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Offices, FBI, ATF, police and fire departments, and insurance companies joined the programs. Local police departments in both cities have instituted church arson prevention patrols as a result of these seminars.
The well-being of a community can be measured by how government and citizens come together during times of crisis. Crimes motivated by racial animosity require a special response. The Community Relations Service takes pride in the important work it has rendered over the past eight months to more than 125 communities affected by church burnings. As devastating as these attacks have been, they have proven to be challenges for these communities to discover their own strengths. They have shown us how people of good will can come together, joining hands in rebuilding not merely the physical structure of the church, but weaving a new community fabric with the threads of trust and faith.
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CRS's work is not finished. Church burnings continue. In those communities where there is racial antagonism, CRS mediators will be available to provide conflict prevention and resolution services.
Thank you for the opportunity to report on the work of the Community Relations Service Church Burnings Response Team.
Mr. HYDE. Well, I thank you, Ms. Glenn, and I certainly thank the entire panel. We will submit some questions.
First, the Chair is pleased to recognize Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate the formal reports from all of you. Now let's get subjective for just a moment.
What's happening? Where are we? What's the prospect for eliminating all racially-motivated arson? All of you at once, please. [Laughter.]
Mr. JOHNSON. The question you present is a broader one. Arson is one category of racially-motivated crimes, of hate crimes. I will at least address the arson issue, and I think I should defer to the Civil Rights Division to discuss generally the hate crimes issue overall.
In terms of bearing down on the arson issue, we have seen a decrease in the number of fires at churches in the last 10 months, 11 months. There are a number of reasons for that. We aren't in a position right now to say what the driving forces have been, but with respect to some of the cases in some of the States, we have seen prevention efforts stepped up. In South Carolina, for example, there is a program within the South Carolina community to arrange for church watches, where churches would be watched by members of black churches and white churches together. That has been an effective tool, we think, in dealing with the situation in South Carolina. When we distributed our prevention manual, that was one of the key items we identified as being a successful tool or a promising tool for limiting these sorts of crimes.
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Ms. PINZLER. To the extent that the question--I don't know if you meant to ask the broad question of hate crimes in general, but I think that generally there have to be three approaches. One, of course, is strict and vigilant law enforcement, and another is education of people. Also, I think that shining the glare of light onto these cases serves a very important purpose. I have to believe, we all have to believe, that it's a very small minority of people who are responsible for hate crimes of all types, and these being among the most heinous, the church arsons, but there are, as you probably know, many other kinds of hate crimes as well that the Civil Rights Division prosecutes. I think that they are abhorrent to most Americans, and it's important, that we focus on the fact that it still exists and prosecute, as well as making sure that people understand what's going on.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
Mr. Bryant of Tennessee.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me thank the distinguished panel for appearing today to testify.
As the chairman pointed out, I'm from Tennessee, and specifically my district, the Seventh Congressional District, has had at least two or three incidents, and I believe the ones in Maury County have been solved and people convicted. The other one in Hardiman County I think is still unsolved, but I think the rebuilding stages are already complete in both of those cases.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would simply say that as a member of a group that helped initiate these hearings and helped start this process along, through the Family Caucus, I join in adding my commendation for the outstanding work that's been done.
I think, as you point out, Ms. Pinzler, any time you shed light on a subject, it has the ability to get to the truth very frequently. I agree with your office that it is a small minority of people doing these terrible actions. While we use our best efforts in education and security and all other ways to avoid this, I don't know that we can ever completely eliminate it. I think that's human nature. But we can do a better job, and I think we're in the process of doing that, of recognizing these situations and preventing many, and certainly in the cases where they do occur, through the very effective law enforcement of the ATF and the FBI and local agencies, arresting and convicting the people responsible for these atrocities.
It's one of those ''two-fers'' for me. I abhor, as Mr. Coble said, the fact that people would burn people's churches, but the second part, the fact that it's racially-motivated, is, again, totally unacceptable. I would think, it would be unacceptable to anybody that has the type of values that they should have.
I don't have any questions at this time. I was a former U.S. attorney, and I know we used the services of your office a couple of times in mediating potential situations in Memphis, and I want to commend the good work that you do. Again, I want to congratulate the very good work of our Federal law enforcement lately. You folks have been getting some bad publicity out of Washington, and I think it's not deserved. I've worked closely with the FBI, the ATF, and other Federal agencies, and they're very good, very qualified people, and I just want to thank all of you for coming today and testifying, and especially for the very good results that you've achieved.
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Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Mr. Bryant. Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank the witnesses for testifying. I notice Mr. Johnson looked in this direction when he talked about the suggestion that efforts were not coordinated. I would just point out the second time I asked the question, Mr. Chairman, he gave a very definitive answer: that the task force had been formed; they had two people who were clearly in charge of the Federal effort. So whatever lack of coordination there may have been in the beginning I think was certainly cured by the second time we had a hearing.
Mr. Johnson, I'd just ask very briefly, Do you have any problems right now with the coordination, with the structure, with any questions of hierarchy or your authority? Do you have any problems now in those areas?
Mr. JOHNSON. Within the National Task Force here in Washington things are running smoothly. I think that the transition with the departure of Mr. Patrick and the arrival of Isabelle has been a smooth one, and our operations continue to go along smoothly. In the field as well, what we have seen generally and what has been reported back is that the task force has worked very well, and that, in fact, the operations in the field have served as a model for other investigations where two investigative agencies or more are involved.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you. I can ask either you or Ms. Pinzler--I think you indicated that race was a predominate motivation with the African-American churches. What has been the motivation for the destruction of white churches, and how many of them are non-Christian?
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Mr. JOHNSON. With respect to the motivations, what we have found so far in our charges is we've been able to prove: nine defendants in connection with six fires, out of the fires where we've been able to bring charges, were motivated by racial or religious bigotry. We have not gone beyond that since either cases are under investigation or we haven't established sufficient proof to go to the next level.
Mr. SCOTT. How many of the white churches are non-Christian?
Mr. JOHNSON. How many of the white churches are non-Christian?
Mr. SCOTT. Right.
Mr. JOHNSON. A relatively small number--11 synagogues and 2 mosques.
Mr. SCOTT. A relatively small number are Jewish, for example?
Mr. JOHNSON. That's correct, sir.
Mr. SCOTT. OK.
Ms. PINZLER. There were no more than a half dozen that were Jewish or Muslim.
Mr. SCOTT. OK, thank you.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. Lawing, you indicated that 79 churches received assistance. Were any of the churches denied assistance, any of the loans or grants turned down?
Ms. LAWING. I can't speak directly to the grants. The witnesses in the next panel could do that. But in terms of the loans, no, there have been no loans denied.
Mr. SCOTT. OK, thank you.
Ms. Glenn, in your remarks you indicated that you had heard the complaints of the insensitivity exhibited by some of the investigators. How has that allegation been addressed?
Ms. GLENN. It's really been addressed in a number of ways. One is that we did arrange face-to-face meetings between the minority residents and law enforcement, so that law enforcement could then hear the complaints from the residents rather than for us to bring that message. Also, I know that Mr. Johnson did address that also by even switching some of the agents, and perhaps he'd like to address that.
Mr. JOHNSON. Generally, what we did, as I mentioned earlier, we felt it was important that the law enforcement agents, one, know the sense of the communities in which we were conducting the investigations, and, two, reach out to the communities in which the investigations were being conducted. As you will recall, early on we were criticized for a number of reasons because of the way we approached the cases. We changed our protocols, so that we not only took the--we didn't always take in every case the traditional arson investigative steps. Many arsons are arsons for profit. So the first question you often ask is: who has an incentive to burn this? Who would gain financially from this? When conducting an arson investigation in a church, that is not always the most logical first question. In fact, in the vast majority of the cases we've seen, that has not been the way it's panned out, and our investigative approach has changed as a result of that.
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We do, though, have to ask all questions, and we have to pursue every lead. So that in those instances where the questioning of church members has become uncomfortable, we have had occasion not to necessarily--at least not after the task force was formed--to remove people, but to bring the community in to speak to the investigators, to speak to the prosecutors, so that they would know why the question was being asked, and so that they would understand our investigative approach.
Early on, even before the task force was formed, there was a question about the objectivity of some of our agents because of allegations surrounding the Good Ole Boys Roundup. Director McGaw, the Secretary of the Treasury, we all assured ourselves that none of the agents as to whom there were any allegations that they had been racially-insensitive in connection with the Good Ole Boys Roundups were assigned to these investigations.
Ms. PINZLER. If I may, Representative Scott, I'd just like to correct my answer to the earlier question. I was handed a note. Apparently, we have 10 synagogues and 2 or 3 mosques on the list of arsons. There are also additional instances of vandalism at synagogues that are not included on the list.
Ms. LAWING. And if I may clarify also, HUD has not--we guarantee loans, and we have not denied any guarantees. I do understand, however, that some nonprofit organizations and churches have had a difficult time finding banks to submit the applications.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. Before I yield to somebody else, I'd like to ask a couple of questions.
I'm a little confused. Are the majority of the crimes associated with these churches black churches or white churches?
Mr. JOHNSON. Out of the total number of churches?
Mr. HYDE. Right.
Mr. JOHNSON. OK, out of the total number of churches, the majority nationwide are non-African-American churches----
Mr. HYDE. Are white churches?
Mr. JOHNSON. Correct. Approximately 150 are African-American churches nationwide, and then 219 are non-African-American.
Mr. HYDE. And some of the motives, in addition to the obvious racial bigotry, some of these people are just--they're mad at God; they're mad at the pastor; they're just mad, and then there's the issue of insurance. There could be a whole range of motives of the pathology that would lead someone to torch a church, is that not correct?
Mr. JOHNSON. In the cases that we've been able to bring to date, we've seen a wide range of motives.
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Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much.
The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. JENKINS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have one question, but, first, I would like to compliment all those who have testified here this morning about the results that the work of their agencies has produced. It's been pointed out that arson cases are difficult to make, but these statistics look very good to me. I believe a great job has been done, and I hope you'll be able to make an arrest and get a conviction in every one of those cases that show on these charts.
There's been no mention this morning--and maybe this is not the place, but for anybody on this panel, has any thought been given--have any civil cases been contemplated? Have any cases been prepared for damages in connection with the burnings. You may not be able to get damages; you may be under the turnip rule that we know in the Tennessee courts, but has any thought been given to civil cases for damages in connection with any of these burnings and convictions?
Ms. PINZLER. Apparently, in some cases restitution has been ordered.
Mr. JENKINS. Has been ordered----
Ms. PINZLER. We don't know of any civil----
Mr. JENKINS [continuing]. As a part of the sentencing process?
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. PINZLER. Right, right.
Mr. JENKINS. But, beyond that, there have been none--you know of no efforts to----
Ms. PINZLER. Right. Well, those obviously would be actions brought by the churches themselves. It would be private civil action. We wouldn't be involved in that. We have no jurisdiction to bring that kind of civil case.
Mr. JENKINS. All right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you. The gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the chairman very much, and I also thank Ranking Member Conyers. I'm gratified for the cooperative effort between the chairman and Mr. Conyers on having this hearing. Certainly, I think it is important, Mr. Chairman, that we have an accounting and an oversight of what we all came together in the last Congress and unified around, our commitment to ensure that this does not happen.
Let me, Mr. Chairman, if I can ask unanimous consent to have my statement, opening statement, be submitted in the record, and I appreciate----
Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Chairman first let me both commend and thank you for holding this hearing on one of the more important pieces of legislation the House of Representatives passed last Congress, the ''Church Arson Prevention Act.''
This was much needed legislation as over 120 places of worship were attacked, desecrated, vandalized, and burned due to racially motivated hate crimes. In the 1964 the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act guaranteeing equal protection to all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color. During the 1960s African Americans were faced with widespread institutionalized racism especially in the southern region of the United States where Jim Crow laws were heavily practiced and lived by. However, with the Civil Rights Act Congress acted to rid our society of discrimination and segregation. So much time has passed ... but yet we still have a ways to go.
It concerns me that not only did we have a rash of church burnings last year, but in 1995, the Justice Department reports that there were 7,947 hate crime incidents involving 10,469 victims. 61 percept of the incidents were motivated by racial basis, 16 percent by religious bias, 13 percent by sexual orientation bias and 10 percent by ethnicity or national origin bias. I hope that the officials who are representing the Justice Department and the ATF can tell this committee the status of these hate crime investigations, how many people have been arrested and convicted. I am encouraged however with the good work that the Justice Department and the ATE has already done and am looking forward to hearing about the arrests and convictions that they have already made.
In the congressional district in which I represent, the 18th Congressional District of Texas, on February 21st, the Good Hope Baptist Church was burned. Several of us on this committee and in this house represent districts where church arsons occurred. This is not just a regional problem, or a partisan concern, this is an issue facing our nation. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses. Thank you Mr. Chairman
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me briefly make some remarks to note that, as I understand it, last year over 120 places of worship were attacked, desecrated, vandalized, and burned due to racially-motivated hate crimes and church burnings. I think that falls within your number, or maybe a little less. And I do want to note the good works of this task force, and certainly the Civil Rights Division now with Ms. Pinzler--I want to thank you for the longstanding commitment. And I'm, likewise, encouraged, Mr. Johnson, by the work of the ATF. I know you've been on the hot seat several times in this committee, but you've taken it with the sense of response that we have appreciated, and certainly do appreciate the ATF on the arrests that have been made 175, and the 68 defendants that have already been convicted. I know that your plate is quite full. We may come to another hearing where I'll be more pointed in my questioning, but I do think it is important to acknowledge that aspect.
Let me just comment on some of the underpinning sometimes of questions, and I respect the inquiry of the chairman, that some of these incidents are disgruntled parishioners and people in contract fights, and whatever else. I think with the history of African-American churches and the utilization of the burning of churches during the heated civil rights movements in the early history in this country, we must remind Americans that this is not hysteria, when we have put together the task force and, of course, the assistance by HUD; it is a response to the longstanding history, and that the symbolic response that comes out of the community, both majority and minority community, when a black church is burned. It is done for a reason if it is racially-motivated--to get just that kind of attention, and that's why I think it is important for the Federal Government to have intruded in this process, and is not in disregard to the fact that there are many other churches that are burned, that they're sometimes disgruntled members.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If you could comment on that point in terms that we are not frivolously doing or asking to do frivolous things in terms of investigating these potential arsons, and we're not ignoring majority churches. I would certainly appreciate that comment from Mr. Johnson and Ms. Pinzler.
Ms. Pinzler, would you also answer the question of whether or not the Greater Good Hope Baptist Church in the 18th Congressional District, that was burned on February 21, and I gave a letter directly to the Attorney General; that church happened to be the mother church of a church that is now recently built, but also the home church of the honorable Barbara Jordan. I'd appreciate that.
And, Ms. Lawing, if you could tell me either the process or whether or not that church has been transferred over, or what process they need to engage in to receive assistance under the program that you have.
Let me conclude by thanking all those presently involved and to remind those of us who agreed to support this task force in legislation that we do have a reason, and I did have one other point; forgive me. Mr. Johnson, would you let me know whether or not you've discovered any militia involvement or paramilitia involvement in any of these incidents and any of them tied to the hate activities that some of them happen to propose?
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you. From the outset of these investigations, from the outset, even before the formation of the task force, we viewed the crime of burning of a church, of any church, as a serious, serious act. The impact on virtually any community is devastating. Churches were the places, and are the places, where children are baptized, where people are married, where people go for solace.
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Within the African-American churches, within the African-American community, the church is even more than that. We all know, either through experience or what we learned at our parents' knees, what the African-American church meant to, and means to, the black community, meant to the community during the civil rights struggle. That was not only the place where you learned to get close to your God, but also where you often learned to read, where you organized to obtain the right to vote. When these fires started, it raised the specter that we were again returning to an age where this would be a serious problem where blacks were being attacked. In some of our cases the defendants have admitted that they targeted black churches because they knew how important they were to the African-American community.
With those concerns in mind, and with what we learned from our visits to churches in the South, we knew that when we conducted these investigations, we had to do so not with the notion of prejudging the outcomes, but with the idea that we were going to get the facts right; we were going to address the very valid and the palatable concerns of the African-American community, and the concerns of the Nation because of what these fires meant. I think we've done that.
With the findings that we've made--as I've said before, we can only talk about charges that we've actually been able to bring--we've demonstrated that there are some fires that are clearly motivated by racial hatred. There are some fires that are motivated by other sorts of hatred, by antireligious bigotry, and there is a wide range of motives for the fires. But, again, whatever the motivation, these are terrible acts. It is important and appropriate for us to be involved in these investigations, and we will continue to carry forward this effort.
With respect to defendants that we've been able to convict so far, on the militia question, I'm not aware of--and I will check after this hearing, but I'm not aware of a case in which we have convicted a member of the militia in connection with these cases. We have convicted in South Carolina four members of the Ku Klux Klan, former members of the Ku Klux Klan, in connection with two churches that were burned in, I believe, June 1995.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady's time has expired. The gentleman from----
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Yes?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. They have not finished answering. When you were out, it was----
Mr. HYDE. Well, I understand, but we have another--well, all right, go ahead. We have another panel and we have other Members.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. My question has been--I agree. My question had been asked, but there were Ms. Pinzler and Ms. Lawing, and I know they'll be brief. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence.
Ms. PINZLER. Yes, the Good Hope--the Greater Good Hope Church is in fact under investigation. It's on our list.
Ms. LAWING. Real briefly, what we will do is ensure that the Greater Good Hope Church has a loan submission package. We will work with the pastor and the church in identifying a bank, and then work with that bank in submitting a loan. We will also ensure that they are addressed by the entire Rebuilding Task Force.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much. I'll be touch with you as well. Thank you.
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Ms. LAWING. Great. Thank you.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady is welcome. The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it's been a pleasure to see the results of the success of this task force. It's a good example of the appropriate use of task forces to address a serious national problem.
I wanted to address a couple of questions, first, to Ms. Pinzler. It appears from the grants and the report that I have received that these prosecutions were primarily in the Southeast States. Were these task forces set up anywhere other than those Southeast States?
Ms. PINZLER. There is at least a skeletal task force every place. I mean, the notice was sent out to all the U.S. attorneys to be prepared to set up such a task force. They aren't all active. The active ones tend to be where there have, in fact, been fires, but we do have task forces in other parts of the country.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Well, for example, Arkansas, I'm not aware of any----
Ms. PINZLER. Yes.
Mr. HUTCHINSON [continuing]. And some of the other States could be addressed, but I was just concerned that the prosecution's been focused in the Southeast, and I would not want areas that do not have a problem to be burdened with having a task force that might not even be necessary.
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Ms. PINZLER. Well, there's definitely a task force in Arkansas.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. All right. And does that task force receive any additional resources or is that just a task force that is operational in the existing U.S. attorney's office?
Ms. PINZLER. It is an operational task force. It has not yet received any additional resources.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And----
Ms. PINZLER. Wait a minute. Maybe Jim knows more about this than I do; he tends to.
Mr. JOHNSON. As a general matter, there were additional resources supplied to the ATF, and some of those resources have been used by the task force, I believe, in Arkansas.
Ms. PINZLER. I've also been asked to point out that there have, in fact, been convictions outside of the Southeast, a number of them, including one of the convictions under the new statute which was in Nevada.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. In looking at the interim report to the President, I reviewed the prosecutions and the sentences, and it appeared that many of these--in fact, most of them, I believe--were referred for State prosecution, and I commend the task force for handling it that way. A number of these were juveniles and that was the appropriate way to handle it, rather than running them through the Federal system. Was it a criteria though as to whether it was State prosecution or Federal prosecution as to whether the burning or the vandalism was racially motivated? Ms. Pinzler.
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Ms. PINZLER. Yes. That would have--would be one of the factors in whether it be federally prosecuted. We certainly would be in there investigating under those circumstances. So it is usually a joint investigation.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Am I correct that under the statute, you can investigate under suspicion that it's racially motivated, but you really can't prosecute unless it is racially motivated arson or vandalism. Is that correct?
Ms. PINZLER. Also if there is an interstate commerce connection. Where there is a racial motive, that gives us Federal jurisdiction, that's right.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And then finally, I want to address this question to the broader panel. In reading the statute, it looks to me like the funding was for fiscal year 1996 and 1997. Do we see this as something that the task force is going to address and hopefully solve the problem and not need additional funding, or is this something that you view as long-term and that these task forces need to stay in existence? Ms. Pinzler, you could answer first, and I would like to hear from Mr. Johnson too.
Ms. PINZLER. I think that's hard to say at this point, whether it would have to be long standing. My impression is that for the moment, we have what we need and we may need to come back in the future, depending on how the facts develop.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Johnson.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHNSON. With respect to the task force, as Ms. Pinzler indicated, it's difficult at this stage to say. The task force has accomplished a number of objectives or at least addresses a number of needs that aren't necessarily going away. We currently have 369 cases under investigation, many of which are solely Federal, many of which are under investigation by the States. We clearly need to continue to monitor those cases and bring them to successful conclusion. There may be other avenues by which that can be accomplished.
With respect to resources, in fiscal year 1997, I believe the ATF was actually given $12 million in no year money. We have not spent much of that down. We have spent--we did spend all of the money that was given to us in a supplemental for fiscal year 1996.
These cases have involved an intensive use of ATF's resources. Our agents have been pushed to the limit and we may at some stage wish to return to our appropriators and indicate that we have a continuing need.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very brief. Thank you for your indulgence. Just two quick questions. How many defendants were charged with multiple arsons, if any?
Ms. PINZLER. There are some.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Some?
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Mr. JOHNSON. We'll get the number, but with respect to Federal cases, I can think of at least seven defendants that were charged with multiple arsons, three in connection with two fires in Tennessee, four in connection with two fires in South Carolina. Those are the ones that come most quickly to mind, but I believe we can get more numbers for you.(see footnote 2)
Mr. DELAHUNT. OK. My last question, I take it your efforts and your investigations to date have not revealed any grand conspiracy or major conspiracy either at the State level or at the Federal level or at a national level.
Mr. JOHNSON. One of the initial questions we were asked was whether or not there was an overarching national conspiracy. That has been one of the guiding factors in our investigative approach. The charges that we have been able to bring to date do not suggest that there's a national conspiracy. Rather, what we have seen in some instances are smaller conspiracies involving a handful of churches and sometimes individuals acting alone. But it's still a question that we consider one that ought to be examined as we go through our cases.
Mr. DELAHUNT. But nothing at this point in time anyhow, would indicate that there is that overarching national conspiracy?
Mr. JOHNSON. Our charges and convictions today would not support that.
Mr. DELAHUNT. All right. Thank you, and congratulations. Your work has been outstanding. You really deserve the commendation of this panel. Thank you.
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Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I too am grateful for your work and your presentation. I have only one question for Mr. Johnson.
In your written presentation and in your oral remarks, you advised us that your arrest rate is at about 34 percent, which is about double the national average in arson cases. Looking at that success rate, I am wondering if there is some possible model here for future Federal, State, local cooperation. And if so, if you can attribute that success to something other than just the fact there are now more hands working on each case. Is there something different about the way these cases have been handled or some different model that's been pursued that might be useful in other circumstances?
Mr. JOHNSON. I think there are a number of things that have led to the success in these investigations. One thing that has been in my view tremendously important is the Federal involvement. In many of the cases in previous instances, the fires were not reported to the Federal Government at all. The level of expertise to conduct a cause and origin investigation in an arson case is not as great in the States as it is in the Federal Government. In fact, ATF is really the Nation's premier leader in conducting cause and origin investigations.
So what has happened as a result of the church fires response. The administration's response has been that with the fires that were reported, we are often on the ground before the embers are cooled, sometimes before the flames have died down. That has made a tremendous difference in our ability to solve the fires, make arson determinations.
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The second thing that has been I think of tremendous help is the combining of the talents of all of the investigative agencies, State and local, the Federal agencies as well, having the ATF and the FBI working together side by side on these investigations along with prosecutors who manage the case and monitor the case from start to finish. It's important in many complicated investigations to have prosecutors and agents working from really start to finish on these cases. We have seen the proof of that.
Mr. PEASE. Is that not the case normally in investigations, that prosecutors and agents are working together from the beginning?
Mr. JOHNSON. It varies. When I was a prosecutor in New York, there were complicated cases where from the day one, the prosecutors and the agents were working the case from start to finish right up until the trial date and actually the agent would sit at the trial table with counsel. But in many cases, the old axiom, the old law enforcement axiom that agents investigate and prosecutors prosecute is what held true. There was a really dichotomy between functions. I think what we have been able to achieve is a real blending of the two functions.
Mr. PEASE. So it's possible there may be some lessons here for other prosecutions as well. I think that is what I hear you saying.
Mr. JOHNSON. I believe there definitely are.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. I thank this panel very much. You made a great contribution and an ongoing one.
I would like to welcome the next panel.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, can I ask the witnesses to check the names to make sure they have them right?
Mr. HYDE. Yes. I think that's a good idea. You don't suppose they were just trying to confuse us, do you, Mr. Scott, more than we already are?
Well, our first witness on the second panel is the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell. Reverend Campbell is the general secretary of the National Council of Churches. She is a minister in both the Christian church and the American Baptist churches in the U.S.A., and is the first woman minister to serve as National Council of Churches general secretary.
Reverend Campbell provides spiritual leadership and administrative oversight to the council in its work toward greater unity among churches, with a goal of opening channels of cooperation with other churches and church-related groups. She has helped build new partnerships upon the shared concerns of the religious community, and she works to coordinate diverse ecumenical resources to resolve common problems today.
Today, she will share with us the efforts of the Burned Churches Project that was launched by the council in response to the rash of church burnings. She will also enlighten us with the council's observations and experiences with the new Federal partnership afforded by the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.
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Reverend Campbell has a bachelors and a masters degree from the University of Michigan. She has completed the graduate clergy internship program at Case Western Reserve School of Social Work.
Welcome, Reverend Campbell.
STATEMENT OF REV. DR. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE U.S.A.
Reverend CAMPBELL. Mr. Chairman Hyde and members of the Committee on the Judiciary, please accept my thanks for the invitation to present to you a report of the Burned Churches Project of the National Council of Churches. I would like to request that copies of my complete testimony be placed in the committee's records.
Mr. HYDE. Without objection so ordered.
Reverend CAMPBELL. In the spring of 1996, in response to our growing awareness of church burnings, largely in African-American congregations across the South, and in our own investigation of the causes, the National Council of Churches launched the Burned Churches Project. The response was instantaneous and dramatic. In June 1996, the most inclusive ecumenical and interreligious partnership developed in a long time in this country gathered around these issues. The partnership has included the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American Jewish Committee, the Congress of National Black Churches, the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism--the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops of America, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. I apologize, Mr. Chairman, for the time it took to read that list, but I think only in hearing the diversity of those who have gathered together around this concern paints a correct picture.
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From the beginning of the Burned Churches Project, we have stated our twofold commitment. First, to stand with the victimized congregations with pastoral care, providing material support toward the goal of restoring each congregation to appropriate and needed ministries, rebuilding each destroyed building as an effective base in the community for service. Second, to expose and challenge the causes of those unwarranted hate-filled and destructive acts.
Who struck the match and why? This is the question we must ask. We must not rebuild to provide fuel for more fires. The response of positive support has come from every quarter. Generous financial gifts from 30 philanthropic foundations, thousands of small gifts from individuals. In the same week, we received a check for $350,000 from the Presbyterian churches, as well as a $260 money order from a small community in West Texas, the money collected in a glass jar on a local lunch counter. At the Abyssinia Baptist Church, someone put a foodstamp in the offering plate for the burned churches. The gifts have been both great and small, all important.
In addition, in-kind gifts came most generously. The contributions of International Paper Corp., and GE Capital, as well as, choir robes, bibles, hymnals, pews, and more have been distributed. The volunteer effort, as you have already heard from the first panel was directed with our cooperation with Habitat for Humanity. While I have in order to save time cited a few endeavors, I want you to understand that they are meant to be representative and in no way the full list of the partnerships.
The role of the Government has been significant in three crucial ways. First, the public recognition of this epidemic of racist destruction. Second, the active attention to law enforcement and arson prevention. Third, support through swift congressional approval of the administrative proposals for adding investigative power and resources and the $10 million guaranteed loan fund which you have heard about from the first panel.
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We brought 38 pastors of burned churches to Washington last June. There, the issue of the burnings was publicly surfaced and engaged. These pastors visited with the President of the United States, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of the Treasury, with leaders in Congress, with leaders of law enforcement agencies. The response was remarkable and empowering. The public conscience was claimed. Direct, informed, and as you heard Mr. Johnson say, frankly more sensitive law enforcement was fostered through the FBI and the ATF. The leadership by Mr. Patrick and Mr. Johnson has expressed effective Federal service at its very best.
Regarding the $10 million guaranteed loan fund, HUD officials, especially the new Secretary, Mr. Cuomo, with the rebuilding initiative continued the clear leadership of former Secretary Cisneros. They have been diligent in making this remarkable resource available.
There are however, two problems that are now clear that we would like to call to your attention. One has to do with the ability of the congregations, many of them small, 30 or 40 people, with part-time leadership and located in low income communities. It is difficult for them to carry any loan at all. The second problem is the unreadiness and at times the apparent unwillingness of some banking institutions to participate in these loans. We do ask for your assistance in this matter. I was told just yesterday by the staff that is working on this that there are at the moment six banks who are cooperating. So we don't want to paint with a broad brush. But it is an area where we think we could use some assistance.
I want to give you just a quick overview of what has happened in the intervening months since we first came to Washington. In broad terms, nearly $25 million in resources from a variety of sources have come to focus on the epidemic of church burnings. In-kind gifts can be quantified at over $2 million. Cash at $7 million. Modest insurance compensation totaling $2 million. Local contributions and in-kind gifts, about $2 million. Without adding the financial value of volunteers, the total nongovernmental resources are approximately $13 million. If you add to that the HUD loan guarantee of $10 million, it is reasonable to claim that nearly $25 million has been raised and addressed to the burned churches in over 8 months. I do believe the American people have spoken. They abhor fires that give any indication of being a sign of the ongoing racism in this Nation.
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These resources have addressed the needs of 124 congregations. In order to be brief, I will ask you to read the testimony there. But let me just quickly give you the status of the 124 churches that the National Council of Churches has dealt with in the first phase of this project. These 124 churches are located across the country in 20 States. They include many denominations. By Easter, March 30, 1997, 24 buildings will have been completed. Two, just in time for Easter services. Thirty-four are well into construction, 10 are still in construction planning. On investigation, seven churches were determined not to be victims of racially-motivated hate attacks. Nine are refinancing building debts. Six are purchasing new land and/or buildings, one is resubmitting plans, 33 are being processed currently for awards, volunteers and construction counsel. Within this number of 124 churches, 20 are currently in discussion with HUD regarding financing through the loan guarantees. Twenty-two churches have used the free lumber from International Paper. Eight more are in process. Of cash gifts received, $5.7 million is available for actual rebuilding, and $4.8 million has been awarded and expended. For the 34 churches in process at an average dollar cost of $60,000, the remaining need totals just a little over $2 million. In cash and pledges, in the Burned Churches Project, we have available $1.4 million.
As we turn more directly now with a significant portion of the rebuilding underway to the issue of racism, our determination is that the fires will end because racism will be tenaciously challenged and hounded out from among us. The conditions of life that are fed by it--poverty, joblessness, inadequate health care, insufficient provisions for children, educational needs--require our concerted address. The forces that feed it--bigotry, prejudice, hatred, violence, religious narrowness and exclusive patterns of social life, will require change. Our resources are very modest.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As we have drawn together across the country, with a common mind that these burnings are wrong and the loathsome spirit behind them deserves only disgust, so I also hope we can continue together in struggling with and challenging racism at every point, where it attacks our common life. It is not a sociological issue, it is not a political issue. We believe it is a deeply spiritual concern.
[The prepared statement of Reverend Campbell follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REV. DR. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE USA
Mr. Chairman Hyde and members of the Committee on the Judiciary:
Please accept my thanks for the invitation to present to you a report of the Burned Churches Project of the National Council of Churches. I would like to request that copies of my complete testimony be placed in the Committee records.
In the Spring of 1996, in response to our growing awareness of church burnings, largely in African American congregations across the South and our investigation of the causes, the National Council of Churches launched the Burned Churches Project. The response was both instantaneous and dramatic. In both the religious community and the wider public, revulsion and disgust with this new expression of violence, hatred and racism was very real. An outpouring of interest, offers of cooperation and generous gifts for rebuilding began to be received. For instance, our initial goal of $1 million in response from our member churches was quickly doubled. I am happy to report that churches have met and exceeded that goal of financial support.
In June, 1996, the most inclusive ecumenical and interreligious partnership ever developed in our country gathered around this issue responding to the National Council's leadership. This partnership has included the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American Jewish Committee, the Congress of National Black Churches, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism--Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Islamic Circle of North America, the standing conferences of Orthodox Bishops of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Each partner has contributed and representatives have participated in grant-making decisions.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The National Council of Churches itself brought into the partnership and administration of the Burned Churches Project the participation and support of its 33 member communions with a constituency of 150,000 local congregations including 54 million church members. As the oldest and largest ecumenical body in the United States, the National Council, as you will see from the attached full listing, includes most of the historic Protestant church bodies, nine Orthodox Church bodies, seven historic African American churches, the traditional peace churches, and several others. The National Council is a broad and inclusive body with a rich variety of traditions, religious convictions and public concerns. As its General Secretary, both today and on other occasions, I speak in the context of its program and public policy statements developed through the representative participation of the member communions.
From the beginning of the Burned Churches Project, we have stated our two-fold commitment: (1) to stand with the victimized congregations with pastoral care providing material support toward the goal of restoring each congregation to appropriate and needed ministries and rebuilding each destroyed building as an effective base for such service to go forward; (2) to expose and challenge the causes of those unwarranted, hate-filled and destructive acts, often giving expression to a virulent racism which continues to live as a destructive illness in our common life. We consider racism a spiritual issue--an evil--sin, acted out against God and neighbor. Further, we have believed from the first that the great common sense of most Americans immediately recognizes the need not only to rebuild the churches but to attack the cause. We have to ask, ''Who struck the match, and why?'' We must not rebuild to provide fuel for more fires!
The response of positive support has come from every quarter. Generous financial gifts have come from nearly 30 philanthropic foundations, including most of the great foundations of our country. Thousands of small gifts from individuals have been received. In the same week, for instance, a check for $350,000 collected from Presbyterian churches was received for the Burned Churches Fund as well as a $260 money order from a small community in West Texas; the money collected in a glass jar on one local lunch counter; a Sunday School Class of eight year olds sent $6.30; and Oregon high school students collected over a thousand dollars which was then matched by the Levi Strauss Company. Every member of the Olympic ''Dream Team'' contributed their earnings--a total of $150,000. The Progressive National Baptist Convention sent an additional $5,000 just last week. This was beyond their already generous gifts.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, ''in-kind'' gifts came most generously. The International Paper Corporation, through its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. James Melican, is continuing to provide numerous wood products needed in reconstruction without charge. GE Capital has contributed modular buildings for temporary use by congregations. Choir robes, bibles, hymnals, pews, appointments and more have been distributed.
A major source for the rebuilding effort has been the work of volunteers, coordinated and directed through our contract-partner, Habitat for Humanity. Local volunteer efforts as well as direct local contributions and gifts have supplemented the national program. While I have cited some endeavors, I want you to understand that they are meant to be representative, and only a small sampling at that, of the vast array of responses that defy listing and cannot be fully quantified.
Additionally, the role of government has been very significant in three crucial ways: (1) the public recognition of this epidemic of racist destruction; (2) active attention to law enforcement and arson preventions; (3) support through swift congressional approval of the Administrative proposals for added investigative powers and resources and the $10 million guaranteed loan fund for rebuilding administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development in partnership with the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches.
When we brought 38 pastors of burned churches to Washington last June, the issue of the burnings was publicly surfaced and engaged. The reception of these pastors and our project leaders by the President, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, leaders in the Congress and the leaders of law enforcement agencies was both remarkable and empowering. The public consciousness was claimed. Direct, informed and frankly, more sensitive law enforcement, through the FBI and the ATF, began. The consequences in investigations, arrests and successful prosecutions have been reported elsewhere. The improvement, especially in terms of an awareness of how racism operates and its role in these burnings, has been very significant. We believe we have helped with that. The leadership by Mr. Patrick and Mr. Johnson has expressed effective federal service at its very best. As they and others would confirm, however, the field implementation of arson investigations, law enforcement and sensitivity to racism is still far from adequate. The engagement with field officers on these issues as well as with local law enforcement and arson investigation officials continues to require aggressive federal agency attention.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regarding the $10 million guaranteed loan fund, HUD officials, especially the new Secretary, Mr. Cuomo, out of his own involvement with the National Rebuilding Initiative and continuing the clear leadership of former Secretary Cisneros, have been diligent in making this remarkable resource available. Two problems are now clear. One has to do with the ability of the congregations, many of them small with part-time leadership and located in low-income communities, to carry any loan at all. The good news is the great value of the loan guarantees for larger established congregations, ones with buildings far more costly to replace. However, the burden of any mortgage payment is more than many of the congregations can bear, resulting in even the lower-interest guaranteed loans being of no direct value.
The second problem is the unreadiness and even unwillingness of banking institutions to participate in these loans. It has been shocking to us, especially in the face of such a broad embrace of the burned churches, to realize that banking institutions have been reluctant to bend their requirements and reduce their profit margins to allow these congregations to take advantage of the loan guarantees. Profiteering off of the tragic experience of the burnings seems particularly reprehensible. We continue to hope that some misunderstanding is operating that can be resolved, and we are ready to participate in any helpful way toward some resolution. Happily, some banks have been eager to help; so, I must not be heard as making a wholesale charge. Rather, I want to say that there is a problem with the role of banks in allowing the congressional interest in the guaranteed loan fund to become questioned. Your help in resolving this problem can be of great value.
Your specific interest expressed in your invitation to me relates to the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. What I have said above, I trust, speaks to your interest. However, I want to give you an overview of what has been accomplished in the intervening months. It is a remarkable achievement--in my language--something of a miracle! The Congress and the federal government as a whole have played a crucial, positive part.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In broad terms, nearly $25 million in resources from a variety of sources have come to focus on the epidemic of church burnings. Cash gifts through the National Council's Burned Churches Fund exceed $7 million. In-kind gifts handled nationally can be quantified at over $2 million. Modest insurance compensation has been received by some of the congregations, totaling a little over $2 million. Local contributions and in-kind gifts which cannot be fully documented appear to total at least another $2 million. Without adding the financial value of volunteers, the total non-governmental resources are approximately $13 million. Added to the HUD guaranteed loan ($10 million), it is reasonable to claim nearly $25 million that has been raised and addressed to the burned churches in just over eight months. On the one-year anniversary (June 910, 1997), we are planning a celebration here in Washington--and you are all invited!
Specifically, these resources have addressed the needs of 124 congregations, a far greater number than the 38 with which we began last June. By the end of summer, 1996, the number of houses of worship attacked, desecrated, vandalized and burned, all due to racially motivated hate, had grown to 90. At the end of 1996, the identified churches were 124. These are the ones we are currently addressing. We are aware that churches continue to be attacked and burned, such as the Oak Grove Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, a 100 year old building in Elko, Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports that three young white men have been charged with first degree arson. We are aware that 44 more church burnings and attacks are awaiting investigation and attention.
The status of the 124 churches in the first phase of the Burned Churches Project can be described as follows:
They are located across the country in 20 states.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThey include many denominations: Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, and independent community churches.
By Easter (March 30,1997) 24 buildings will have been completed (two just in time for Easter services).
34 are well into reconstruction.
10 are still in construction planning.
On investigation, 7 churches were determined not to be victims of racially motivated hate attacks.
9 are refinancing building debts (HUD only).
6 are purchasing new land and/or buildings.
1 is resubmitting plans.
33 are currently being processed for awards, volunteers and construction counsel.
Within this number of 124 churches, 20 are currently in discussion with HUD regarding financing through the loan guarantee; 22 churches have used the free lumber from International Paper and 8 more are in process. Of cash gifts received, $5,707,000 is available for actual rebuilding and $4,883,783 has been awarded and expended.
For the 34 churches in process, at an average dollar cost of $60,000, the remaining need totals $2,040,000. In cash and pledges, approximately $1,400,000 is currently available in the Burned Churches Fund.
It may be of interest that a building for an average congregation of 100 members costs approximately $120,000. Through donated lumber, other gift materials and volunteer labor, jointly with Habitat for Humanity, we have been able to substantially reduce the dollar cost to the $60,000 per church figure cited above.
I am extremely proud of our National Council staff end those who have joined us to work on the Burned Churches Project. Our project office, under the leadership of Don Rojas, has facilitated many of the operational details. Our financial managers, both in New York and in the Church World Service office in Elkhart, Indiana, have accepted added responsibility for the Burned Churches Project without added compensation. In the face of irresponsible reporting of our work in The Wall Street Journal and, most recently, the Indianapolis Star (which subsequently printed an apology) and the baseless accusations and mean-spirited attacks by our frequent critics such as the Institute for Religion and Democracy, our Burned Churches Project staff has continued to serve effectively and faithfully. The achievements themselves tell a remarkable story. Unfortunately, the detractors have made the victimized churches, not the National Council, victims again by reducing our ability to provide them greater reconstruction resources and aid.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I must speak of our tragic recent loss of the Director of the Burned Churches Project, The Rev. Dr. Mac Charles Jones. His shocking, untimely death on March 6, 1997, has left us deeply dismayed. His gifts in articulating the deeper issues in the epidemic of the burnings and his unceasing ability to bring together in honest dialogue those affected by these issues have been of immeasurable value. With great confidence, we expected his leadership to be enormous in our National Ministries, and especially our ongoing struggle against racism. We are grieved and Dr. Jones will be sorely missed, perhaps especially by those who would have been blessed by his ministry even without knowing him.
As we turn more directly now, with a significant portion of the rebuilding underway, to the issue of racism, our determination is that the fires will end because racism will be tenaciously challenged and hounded out from among us. The conditions of life that are fed by it--poverty, joblessness, inadequate health care, insufficient provisions for children, educational needs--require our concerted address. The forces that feed it--bigotry, prejudice, hatred, violence, religious narrowness, exclusive social patterns and the like--will require change. Our resources are modest; in financial terms, $1,500,000 (approximately 20% of the cash contributions) has been designated for this attack on racism.
As we have drawn together across the country with a common mind that these burnings are wrong and the loathsome spirit behind them deserves only disgust, so I hope we can continue together in struggling with and challenging racism at every point it attacks our common life. It is a deeply spiritual issue. To diminish any person because of race is to reject the God who gives life to each of us. Let me assure you that the National Council of Churches, with the same integrity with which it has addressed the burning of the churches, will confront racism in the continuing company of many partners who also find it an offense to God and our neighbors.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThank you.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 19 TO 23 HERE
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady. Our next witness will be the Rev. Earl W. Jackson, Sr. Reverend Jackson comes to us from Boston, where he is a well-known lawyer, radio talk show host, and community activist on behalf of our young people. After his honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Reverend Jackson received a bachelors degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a law degree from Harvard Law School. While pursuing his law degree, Reverend Jackson also studied theology at Harvard Divinity School. After his public service in Massachusetts, Reverend Jackson entered private law practice and became a panelist on Boston's longest running religious talk show, ''Topic Religion.'' Thereafter, he became a nationally syndicated radio host on ''Earl Jackson Across America.'' Reverend Jackson founded the New Corner Exodus Church. He has held the position of national liaison, community development, Christian Coalition since 1996.
Welcome, Reverend Jackson.
STATEMENT OF REV. EARL W. JACKSON, SR., NATIONAL LIAISON, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, CHRISTIAN COALITION
Reverend JACKSON. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you very much for having me and giving me this opportunity to testify. Mr. Chairman, I would like to have the written testimony that I have submitted entered into the record please.
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Mr. HYDE. Without objection.
Reverend JACKSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
About a year ago, I left on an unexpected trip to a place called Enid, OK, because the Missionary Baptist Church pastored by Rev. Dr. Alfred Baldwin had been burned the day before. When I got there, the embers were still smoldering. People had put up a make-shift canopy. The congregation members were gathered underneath it, cooking chicken, giving out potato salad to people who were gathering around to look at the tragic remains of this building.
In the center of that canopy was a burned cross. That cross was literally still warm from the fire. Everything else in the building had been destroyed, but that cross was still there. They said that cross is the symbol of what we are and who we are, that you can burn down a building, but you can't burn down the spirit that is within us.
Mr. Chairman, I commend the Congress for the church prevention, the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, because you are saving more than buildings. You are saving communities. The church, as has already been said, is the center of activity in the black community in particular, but we know that in many communities across this country the church is the place where Denzel Washington learned to do what he does in terms of presenting himself and communicating a message. It's the place where Oprah Winfrey learned to talk. It's the place where Aretha Franklin learned to sing. It's been the repository of the development of leadership in the black community since the days of slavery. It really remains such. Great people have sprung from the church. Sometimes many of them have sprung so far that we feel they may never come back, but they have nevertheless found their roots within the church community.
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Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, the church is also the place of moral absolutes. It is a place where people are reminded that there is a responsibility in life to do the very best you can, to live the very best life you can. The circumstances of your life do not give you an excuse for lawlessness and immorality. So the commandment ''Thou shalt not kill'' does not have a footnote that says unless you feel you have been done a grave injustice. The commandment ''Thou shalt not steal'' does not have a footnote that says unless you feel that you have been unjustly placed in an impoverished situation. The church is the place where people are reminded that because of what is on the inside they can transform the circumstances that are on the outside.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, this Act is so important because the church is also the place where service to others is seen in its most pristine terms. As a result of the rash of fires against black churches, the Christian Coalition started something called the Save the Churches Fund. We put out a call to raise funds to help black churches particularly, and any church for that matter, across the country, that had been a victim of arson. Within a matter of a few months, $800,000 poured in, none of which by the way was spent on administrative costs. That money was spent completely on churches. We distributed that $800,000 to over 40 churches across the country. Today, most of those churches have been rebuilt.
So we have found in those churches the kind of service that the Federal Government has tried to do for a generation, and frankly, quite inadequately. Those churches are on the frontline of dealing with drug addiction, dealing with teen pregnancy, dealing with families that are threatening to break up, dealing with young people who are off on the wrong track and on their way to jail. Those churches are having the most successful time at rescuing those people. The Save the Churches Fund has opened a door for that. These church arsons have really opened an opportunity for people to come together and find out about the wonderful works that are going on across this country that are not making the evening news.
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I was in Houston just this past week with Dr. Ralph Reed. We gave our first grant from something we have now formed called the Samaritan Project to a group called Women Off Welfare. The woman is a former welfare recipient. Her husband is a former convict. They have transformed their lives not because of a Government program, Mr. Chairman. They have transformed their lives because of their involvement in the church, and were convinced that God had a better plan for them than the life that they were living.
Frankly, Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee, we do not mean to say that the Federal Government has no role to play in the lives of people. But frankly, I have seen women, I am a pastor myself, and have seen women who have had their first child become abstinent and say I am now going to wait for the husband that God has for me. No Federal program ever does that. We have seen people who have been on drugs, caught up with crack cocaine, come off and become decent fathers and husbands. No Federal program ever does that. We have seen young people come together and commit themselves to preserving their bodies from being sexually abused by promiscuity and sex before marriage. No Federal program can do that.
So, Mr. Chairman, I say this all by way of saying that the Church Arson Prevention Act is more than about preserving buildings. It is about preserving something very vital in these communities. We would ask that we go beyond simply protecting the facilities. The Samaritan Project represents an effort to try to support these faith-based institutions that are out there that we don't know about that are doing tremendous work, often on shoestring budgets. When we see their buildings burn, we see their ability to do those services severely hampered. So what we are talking about is supporting those faith-based institutions. That, Mr. Chairman, is what the Samaritan Project is doing.
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We have committed ourselves to distributing $10 million over the next 3 years to faith-based institutions and churches across the country and working with 1,000 churches that are addressing these vital issues. We hope that this Congress will go beyond the Church Arson Prevention Act and support efforts like the Community Renewal Act that is sponsored by Congressmen Watts and Talent, and Flake, because we believe that that is the kind of thing that this whole church arson rash has made possible for us.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, let me just say that when I was in Enid, OK, I had an opportunity to meet with Pastor Baldwin in one of the many churches I visited that had been burned. He told a story about something that happened the evening before after the church had burned down. He was sitting in his house in the middle of the night, police all around. Someone knocked on the door. He said when he went to the door, there was a white man standing at the door. Pastor Baldwin happens to be black. He wondered who was this man coming to his house in the middle of the night. He didn't know him. So when he opened the door, the man said, ''Pastor Baldwin, I heard on the news that your church was burned down.'' He said, ''I don't have much, but I have $27 dollars in my pocket, and I want you to have that to start the rebuilding of your church.''
Mr. Chairman, this has become an opportunity to bring together people across racial and cultural lines in an unprecedented way. I hope that we can capture the spirit of that and continue that. The Samaritan Project is holding a racial reconciliation congress on May 10, to bring people, black and white together to talk about our common concern for our country, our common faith, and to do the things that we believe need to be done in this Nation.
The theme that I heard sounded every where I went was this. Someone burned a church meaning it for evil. But God has somehow taken that evil and turned it to good. Mr. Chairman, we believe that the Church Arson Prevention Act is one of the good things that has come out of it. Thank you very much.
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[The prepared statement of Reverend Jackson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REV. EARL W. JACKSON, SR., NATIONAL LIAISON, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, CHRISTIAN COALITION
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. The enactment of the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 is very important to us as a country and to me personally. The desecration of churches prohibits individuals from practicing the most basic freedom for Americans, the right to worship. I appreciate that the U.S. Congress is overseeing the implementation of this act at this early juncture.
It was almost one year ago when I first testified before this distinguished committee to discuss the rash of church arsons. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Hyde and Ranking Minority Member Conyers, Congress approved the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 which will facilitate federal prosecution of these acts of violence. Such swift and certain action on the part of Congress sent a clear message that such attacks on religious houses will not be tolerated.
Following the decisive legislative action, Christian Coalition stepped up its own efforts to ease the suffering of the pastors and parishioners who lost their churches to arson. On June 18, 1996, Christian Coalition held a summit in Atlanta, Georgia and called together many pastors of firebombed churches from across the nation to identify other solutions to put a halt to these attacks. Also invited were representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League.
At that summit, we launched a broad campaign against bigotry and announced the establishment of the ''Save the Churches Fund,'' a special fund at the Christian Coalition to provide financial assistance to churches that needed to be rebuilt. In addition to financial assistance, the fund could be used to provide building security to include such items as motion detectors, alarms, floodlights and smoke detectors for churches that have been or could be targets of arson.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We subsequently sent an appeal to our church network and requested a special collection for ''Racial Reconciliation Sunday'' to raise an estimated $1 million to go directly toward rebuilding burned and bombed churches. I am very pleased to report to this committee that to date, we have awarded $850,000 which has helped more than 40 churches.
On October 17, 1996, members of the Christian Coalition met on the grounds of a burned church in Richmond, Virginia to begin the distribution of the generous donations collected during the summer and fall to help restore or rebuild many firebombed churches. The ceremony at the Glorious Church of God in Christ in Richmond included a presentation of $25,000 to Elder Morris Mahoney to help rebuild that church.
The in kind and financial gifts enabled us to help churches with grants from $5,000 to $25,000. In Texas we helped the Holy Cross Church of God in Christ, pastored by Reverend Vernon Reed, with a grant of $25,000. Rev. Vernon Reed recently told me that his congregation's church is virtually rebuilt and they have a new spirit and appreciation of community activism. This is due in no small part to the rebuilding of their church and their partnership with the evangelical churches that provided necessary support.
Pastor Brenda Stevenson, of New Outreach Christian Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, who on Monday met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, indicated that the grants gave her church a new hope and opened the door to new opportunities. These relationships that were forged out of the destruction of her church have opened the door to create new friendships with churches that were otherwise not present.
These two examples illustrate that while churches burned and the physical church was ruined, the spiritual church came back stronger than before the desecration. Both churches have now incorporated faith-based community outreach programs to aid their neighborhoods, and have started a spirit of Samaritism that is spreading throughout this country.
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I commend the Congress for passing The Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996. This act brought attention to the issue of church burnings. I now call on Congress to show similar initiative not only to protect the structural integrity of churches, but also to revitalize the church as the focal point of the community. The bill sponsored by Congressmen J.C. Watts, Floyd Flake and Jim Talent (H.R. 1031, the Community Renewal Act) is an excellent step in this direction.
The Christian Coalition recognizes the need to strengthen churches and rebuild neighborhoods as well. We launched the Samaritan Project in January 1997 to help faith-based organizations and churches in poor and minority communities. Revitalization of the church is a key aspect in returning the proper sense of honor, self worth and morality to families and communities in this country.
Over the past three decades our government has weakened the role of the church in American society. This must no longer continue if we are going to reduce the downward trend of immoral behavior that is victimizing our youth and demoralizing the citizens. The negative statistics of children of poor and minority communities are almost to the point where the negative is about to consume the positive. I encourage this committee to explore ways to help the growth of families, churches, and communities. A good starting point would be to remove the restraints that may prevent places of worship from fully serving their communities.
Luke 10:33,34 states ''But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him he felt compassion.'' It continued, ''And came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.'' This statement is the basis for the Samaritan Project. The problems that are ravishing our communities are not isolated to poor and minority communities. It is an American problem. As we are working to reduce the size of the bureaucracy, we must look toward new or existing initiatives that already help individuals where the government has not or cannot. These programs, faith-based and private, exist but in many cases lack the financial support or are hindered by government regulators needlessly interfering with their efforts.
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I encourage this committee and your colleagues on other committees to take the following actions to help churches rebuild their communities. The passage of a Charitable Tax Credit would enable the citizens of the nation to provide greater support for community-based service organizations. This will create a greater community bond and reduce the burden placed upon the federal government for solving community problems.
This past Thursday while in Houston, I met with Carol and Hurt Porter to discuss her community-based program called ''KidCare.'' This is a program that feeds hungry children throughout Houston every day of the week. Mrs. Porter, with the aid of her husband, feeds approximately 20,000 children a month. This program receives its funding from charitable gifts and it would grow if more individuals could help with financial support. The Charitable Tax Deduction enables individuals to do so.
As a transition toward a new way of providing for those in need, we must offer effective programs that will teach individuals how to make the transition from dependent to independent. In Houston, Texas, Women off Welfare, led by Renea Gray, a recent recipient of a grant from the Samaritan Project, does not receive money from the government. This is just one example of a community-based program that is working effectively to move women from dependency on welfare to an independent lifestyle. Specific community programs are more effective than government programs at removing people from the ailments of society. This program and many others are in dire need of donations, and a charitable tax deduction would enable them to obtain necessary funding.
The Congress must also work to reduce the governmental intrusions and prohibitions which confront many faith-based organizations and churches when they attempt to serve poor communities. For example, government regulators require that many individuals who are serving these communities have multiple graduate degrees and meet other requirements, although their programs are working without such requirements. Many faith-based programs are effectively working to get individuals off welfare and out of criminal elements.
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We recommend that the Congress conduct a study to review all levels of government obstacles to working with effective private, faith-based programs. We have found that the programs that are successful are working because they understand that you cannot simply provide a job for a former recipient of AFDC or a reformed gang member. You must provide the spiritual backing to improve the self-esteem and outlook of the individual. Without an understanding of who they are spiritually, we are merely creating a temporary solution. Faith-based programs are effective because they do more than just show individuals how to type, build, or cook. They show them the way of the Lord. They encourage the individuals to look within themselves and show them that they can do better with a boost from the Lord, and that the Lord will take care of all willing and able.
Community groups can also take an active role in their neighborhoods. For example, the faith-based group, Clergy United for the Renewal of East Baltimore, or CURE, works to remove the drug element from neighborhoods, rehabilitate individuals, and provide a safe and communal environment. The Senior Baptist Church, within CURE, has purchased property in the surrounding neighborhood, to have its congregation return to the neighborhood. They work to remove the drug-dealers and prostitution from the neighborhood with the hope of having the good citizens of the neighborhood return to the community. They have knocked out the negative and have started to rebuild with a positive neighborhood spirit. Until the Congress: 1) admits that these programs can work and at times with greater success than government programs; and, 2) reduces the regulations that prohibit the efforts of these organizations, we will remain in a holding pattern rather than moving forward.
So I thank the members of this committee for following up on the church burning issue and challenge you to look beyond just the physical renewal of these Churches. The Christian Coalition will work to achieve many of the objectives I have outlined here today. In addition, we will work to provide hope and opportunity scholarships for all students because I believe a key to success in America is education. We will help communities to create safer environments for both the adults and the children, because nowhere in this country should a child be in danger of playing freely in the park or the front yard. We will encourage the Congress to allow for tax credits and deductions for charitable giving. We will encourage others to adopt an attitude of racial reconciliation as this country begins to mold itself to accept different cultures and ethnicities. Finally, we will work to remove the barriers and discrimination from the mind set of bureaucrats who believe that faith-based organizations are ineffective.
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We must begin to work now to prohibit anything that does not effectively allow us to create better neighborhoods, strengthen free enterprise, enrich families, or create a stronger religious framework. These items are the basic tenets for our existence here in America, and as we work to strengthen these items we strengthen our country.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and committee members. God Bless.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much, Reverend Jackson. If you will forbear, we have a vote on that we must make. Mr. Scott and I are among the swiftest Members, however. We'll dash over and vote and be back, if you'll just give us 10 minutes, hopefully then we can finish and hear from all of you. Because our membership has dwindled down to the quality level rather than the quantity level, we won't have an awful lot of questions for you, but we can submit them. So if you'll give us time, we'll be right back. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The committee will come to order.
Reverend Jackson, I understand you have to leave at 1:15. That's OK; we understand. We're glad you could stay as long as you did, and I apologize to everybody that we did not get started on time. The schedule is not of our doing. Thank you.
Our third witness is Harold McDougall. Mr. McDougall is a professor of law and the immediate past director of the law and public policy program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. A graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, Professor McDougall specializes in areas of urban development, civil rights, and the workings of State, local, and Federal Government. He's written numerous articles and a book on the need for community development and revitalization. His works emphasize the need to revitalize civic culture and focus on the economic and social structures at both the neighborhood and metropolitan level.
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Because of his deep commitment to establishing revitalizing community values and culture, Mr. McDougall offers us a valued perspective on the overall operations and effectiveness of the law now under scrutiny.
STATEMENT OF HAROLD McDOUGALL, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
Mr. MCDOUGALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I'm grateful for the opportunity to testify before you today.
One accolade that I think didn't get stated was that I am the new director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, and I'm here testifying on behalf of Mr. Kweisi Mfume, who could not make it today.
We greatly appreciate the committee's leadership in passing the Church Arson Protection Act of 1996 into law; the efforts of the FBI, the ATF, the Community Relations Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on this matter. I especially would like to commend Mr. Deval Patrick and Mr. James Johnson for their efforts in coordinating the task force.
I have submitted written comments which I'd like to ask be made part of the record. I will summarize them.
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Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. MCDOUGALL. Thank you, sir.
The NAACP is the Nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization with over 600,000 members in 50 States and the District of Columbia.
The rash of arson attacks on churches in the African-American community in particular, and especially in the Southern United States, troubles us greatly. We've heard today about the importance of the African-American church to the community. It is, in fact, our moral center. It is also the place from which the fiber that is necessary for us to struggle against injustice comes.
Nelson Rivers, our southeast regional director, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on May 21, 1996, regarding the fires. Mr. Rivers testified that the fires raised the specter of a painful, ugly, and not-too-distant past in America, reminding the African-American community of vigilante tactics which had been used historically to terrorize us and intimidate us from exercising our fundamental constitutional rights.
I have with me, Mr. Chairman, a report from the Center for Democratic Renewal which goes into more detail on the small conspiracies that Mr. Johnson touched on in his testimony, and I would like to ask that that be made part of the record as well.
[The report follows:]
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Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. MCDOUGALL. Thank you.
Some of us are old enough to remember the fire bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, in 1963, when four young black girls were killed while attending Sunday school. Southern rural black churches were rallying points for the civil rights movement of the day, and they still perform important functions in the post-civil rights era. Thirty years later the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Boligee, AL, in Green County, where I, myself, did voter registration work in 1965, was completely destroyed by fire on December 22, 1995. To this date, that crime has not been solved.
Our interest in the church fires was stirred very early by the reports that we got from our southeast regional branches. As early as January 1996, the NAACP asked Attorney General Janet Reno to launch an investigation. Mr. Rivers came and suggested a number of things to the committee, including an interagency task force, increased participation from the Community Relations Service, as well as community meetings.
The upshot of his testimony was that, as a result of the church fires, the African-American community and the Nation as a whole faced a direct and unacceptable threat to physical safety and religious liberty. A forceful and compassionate response was necessary, well-coordinated and funded, that would not only have the objective of bringing the perpetrators to justice, but also sending a message from our Nation's foremost opinion leaders that this type of cowardly bullying, of vicious intimidation, has no place in our country or among our people, and that none of our citizens is worth so little that they can be subjected to this kind of intimidation with impunity.
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We convened a Southeast Region Church Fires Task Force which worked with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to provide free legal services to burned churches and their pastors. The office also fielded phone calls regarding the NAACP's role in this matter from all over the world, and worked with the National Council of Churches and the Center for Democratic Renewal in identifying churches that had not yet received building funds. Our statewide church outreach programs also advised rural, remote churches that they were particularly at risk and advised them that they should institute the kind of program that we've heard described as a church watch.
The new law has definitely improved things. The elimination of the $10,000 minimum damage requirement and the increase in the possible imprisonment from 10 to 20 years, according to Gloria Sweet, our State conference president in Tennessee, have made the law more likely to deter hate crimes. Before, she says, even if a perpetrator was convicted, he or she could get off on good behavior or with a very light sentence, especially if they had connections, knew an important person, or were related to such a person. Teenagers especially had no concern about repercussions whatsoever. The act has not eliminated this type of thing entirely, and traditional attitudes about how things are done are still very much alive, especially in the Southeast.
I'd like to comment briefly on the task force now and on the role of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The task force members, the FBI/ATF task force members, as Mr. Johnson testified earlier, had some initial rough spots with local populations victimized by church arson and vandalism. Part of this was caused by failure to recognize that the community not only needed to have the crimes investigated, but also needed help to feel whole again, to overcome its sense of violation. Unfortunately, FBI and ATF officials in some cases adopted a purely prosecutorial stance, taking the position that everyone was a suspect and acting accordingly. Our branch presidents have told us of instances in which people who already felt victimized were subjected to long interrogations and cross examinations, leaving them feeling victimized again and exacerbating the suspicions they already held toward local law enforcement officials.
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The task force has since taken steps to ease these tensions, including bringing in agents who are not native to the area. They have also worked with the Community Relations Service at Justice in trying to resolve these concerns, but we understand the posture of the task force continues to be to ''proceed with sensitivity, but also where the evidence takes you.'' If that is the posture, it is very important that the Community Relations Service work actively in the community to address the other part of the problem: that the community violated be helped to feel whole again. The necessary ambivalence between the prosecutorial and investigative functions of the task force and the function of calming the community after an episode of violence is best worked out by continued sensitivity training for investigators and by more aggressive outreach and networking by the Community Relations Service.
If, on the one hand, task force members may have been overzealous in their investigations in some cases, in others they were underzealous. This was particularly a problem where the FBI and ATF officials were local, and this, again, Mr. Johnson says, is something to which they have responded. Those local agents may have shared the tendency of local law enforcement to underplay the existence of hate crime activity in their own jurisdictions, perhaps out of embarrassment, perhaps for other reasons. Local law enforcement especially has shown a tendency to make early statements to the press to the effect that ''this crime was not racially-motivated,'' before all the facts are in. Victims must be assured that when they report a crime, the appropriate steps will be taken and their complaints will be treated seriously. The community needs visible signs that both local and Federal law enforcement officials will strive to protect them. This is important evidence of the agency's concern and commitment to the community. We are aware, and the report from the Center for Democratic Renewal discusses this, we are aware of some continuing tension between local law enforcement officials and people from the task force.
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Regarding the Housing and Urban Development loan program, HUD made a serious commitment. They got the resources. They participated in the task force and with the White House. They had some trouble, again, as the testimony indicated earlier, getting through to some of these small, rural congregations filled with people for whom the paperwork of applying for HUD loans was very intimidating. In addition, the notion of borrowing so much money, even at very low interest rates, was a daunting prospect. So HUD needs to increase its technical assistance. We've spoken to HUD officials about this, encouraged them to be more proactive, and the testimony that we heard this morning shows that they heard what we had to say.
Regarding some further recommendations, the NAACP's function always is to raise the bar. I hope you can appreciate that that must always be our position. According to Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the Civil Rights Commission, overall racial tension in the United States is the reason for racist church burnings. The Commission found especially in the South, rigid pockets of segregation and an unmistakable undercurrent of racial animosity. Negative or hate talk radio and political rhetoric minimizing the importance of discrimination have contributed to this resurgence of racial divisiveness and violent behavior.
I think we can all agree that these church burnings are events which should never have happened. We can all, I think, congratulate ourselves for responding appropriately to the emergency as it arose. But to prevent such emergencies, such crises, from becoming more and more recurrent in our society, more remains to be done to root out the culture which supports such occurrences.
And that's really in two areas. One is enforce existing laws and the other is to renew America's commitment to vigorously combat hate crimes. Discrimination in housing, employment, education, and even public accommodations continues, and this creates an atmosphere in which hate crimes such as church fires can thrive. We know that we still have deep racial issues in our culture: Texaco and other revelations of corporate discrimination, the Rodney King videotape, the Good Ole Boy Roundup that so embarrassed the country and revealed that the Federal Government itself is not immune to the virus of racism.
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For laws to be enforced, law enforcement agencies must be funded. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, EEOC, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance, HUD's Fair Housing Enforcement Office, and the Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights all need increased funding to address both the long-term and short-term problems associated with discrimination and with hate crime violence in the United States.
The President's budget calls for increased funding for all these agencies. Along with other members of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP encourages you to meet those recommendations, and, indeed, to exceed them. In addition, we urge you to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was vigorous in its response to church burnings; the same for the Community Relations Service, which has done a terrific job in reducing racial polarization, bridging law enforcement in minority communities, and facilitating biracial rebuilding efforts.
With regard to hate crimes in particular, it's very important to continue to improve data collection. The Hate Crime Statistics Act is very important in this regard. We also need hate crimes reporting units, not only to collect information and statistics, but analyze and process it, creating victim and offender profiles, and motive and activity patterns to assist law enforcement in designing and directing law enforcement resources in response. This will help victims targeted for characteristics over which they have no control, help them feel empowered to report incidents, and not feel that reporting will cause them to be targeted again. Such units are needed in Federal as well as local law enforcement agencies.
Along with the Leadership Conference, the NAACP urges you to make receipt of Department of Justice technical assistance grants and community-oriented police services funds, the COPS funds, contingent upon Hate Crime Statistics Act data collection. As the Leadership Conference report on hate crimes states, ''a combination of presence, prevention, and outreach to minority communities is the best deterrent to hate crimes.''
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It is also important to look at creating a mechanism whereby incidents that do not have criminal motive can be processed and followed along. These ''noncriminal'' incidents can help create an atmosphere in which more serious offenses can take place.
I conclude by urging members of the committee and the Congress to remember that these church burnings really served as a reality check for all of us. While many believed that racism was dead, that we had achieved a colorblind society, the church fires, along with videotaped police beatings of black men and audiotaped comments by corporate bigots, combined in 1996 to amplify that reality check. The continuing issue of racial tension in this country requires programs and agencies to fight injustice and discrimination, as well as the public commitment of opinion leaders, to fight a growing culture that says racism doesn't really exist.
The NAACP remains vigilant, but it should not stand alone. From our beginnings as an organization, we have felt proud to provide leadership to the entire country on finishing the unfulfilled promise of our founding democracy. In the face of a thriving and growing racism industry in this country, we will step forward, as we always have. But we do not expect to be alone.
With the Church Arson Prevention Act, and with the energetic responses from the President, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the ATF, as well as the Community Relations Service, we see that we have allies in this fight upon whom we can depend. We are committed by an 88-year-old mandate to eradicate all vestiges of discrimination on the basis of race. We expect no less of our Government; we expect no less of you.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. McDougall follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HAROLD MCDOUGALL, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am grateful for the opportunity to testify before you today on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). I am Harold McDougall, Director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP.
The NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil organization, with over 600,000 members in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, and throughout the world. The NAACP is committed to the protection of the civil, legal, political, economic and human rights of African-Americans, and other citizens of color here in the United States.
The rash of arson attacks on churches in the African-American community in particular, and especially in the Southern United States, troubled us greatly, and we greatly appreciate the Committee's leadership in passing the Church Arson Protection Act of 1996 into law.
Nelson Rivers, our Southeast Regional Director, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on May 21, 1996 regarding the rash of church fires that broke out in the Southeastern United States last year, the NAACP Southeast Region Church Fires Task Force was formed to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of information on church fires throughout the Southeast.
Mr. Rivers testified that the fires raised the specter of a painful, ugly, and not-too-distant past in America, reminding the African-American community of vigilante tactics which had been used historically to terrorize us, and intimidate us from exercising our fundamental constitutional rights. Some of us are old enough to remember the firebombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, when four young black girls were killed while attending Sunday school. Southern rural black churches were rallying points for the civil rights movement of the day, and still perform important functions in the post-civil rights era. Thirty years later, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Boligee, Alabama, in Green County, where I myself did voter registration work in 1965, was completely destroyed by fire on December 22, 1995. To this date, that crime has not been solved.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As early as January 1996, the NAACP asked Attorney General Janet Reno to launch an investigation, and she gave special orders in this regard to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.(ATF)
At the committee hearing in May, Mr. Rivers made the following suggestions:
1. That the Department of Justice should coordinate the federal response, forming an inter-agency task force for that purpose.
2. That the ATF and FBI should review and revise their interview technique, where necessary, and make good use of the Justice Department's Community Relations Service in this regard.
3. That the FBI and ATF should schedule a series of meetings in the communities where fires occurred to give updates on the investigations, answer questions, and address concerns of community members.
4. That Congress should consider field hearings as part of a continuing investigation.
The upshot of Mr. Rivers' testimony was that as a result of the church fires the African-American community, and the nation as a whole, faced a direct and unacceptable threat to physical safety and religious liberty. A forceful and compassionate response was necessary, well-coordinated and funded, that would not only have the objective of bringing the perpetrators to justice, but also sending a message from our nation's foremost opinion leaders that this type of cowardly bullying, of vicious intimidation, has no place in our country or among our people, and that none of our citizens is worth so little that they can be subjected to this kind of intimidation with impunity.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCIII. NAACP SOUTHEAST REGION CHURCH FIRES TASK FORCE
The Task Force sponsored the Church Fires Workshop July 10, 1996 during the 87th Annual National Convention of the NAACP in Charlotte, North Carolina, in which Deval Patrick, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and James Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement of the Department of the Treasury participated, along with representatives from the press and our state conferences in the South. The Southeast regional office implemented NAACP policy adopted at the convention, working with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to provide free legal services to burned churches and their pastors. The office also fielded phone calls regarding the NAACP's role from all over the world, and worked with the National Council of Churches and the Center for Democratic Renewal in identifying churches that had not yet received rebuilding funds.
IV. CREATION OF STATEWIDE CHURCH OUTREACH PROGRAMS
Through this program, the Regional Office alerted people to be vigilant, advising that rural, isolated churches were most at risk.
V. THE NEW LAW
The new law amended 18 U.S.C. 247 to strengthen the criminal law against church burning and desecration, particularly where such crimes are racially motivated. The law removed a cumbersome interstate commerce requirement, eliminated a $10,000 minimum damage requirement, and increased the maximum possible imprisonment for arson from ten to twenty years.
According to Gloria Sweet, our state conference president in Tennessee, the law as modified by the Church Arsons Act is a better law, more likely to deter hate crimes. Before, she says, even if a perpetrator was convicted, he or she could get off on good behavior or with a very light sentence, especially if they had connections--knew an important person, or were related to such a person. Teenagers, especially, had no concern about repercussions. The Act has not eliminated this type of thing entirely, and traditional attitudes about how things are done are still very much alive in the South. For example, in Meridian, Mississippi, the Youth Court judge refused to certify three convicted teenagers as adults, over the objections of the FBI and local law enforcement officials. As a result, the perpetrators were processed through the juvenile system--one was sent to a youth training school, and another referred for psychological evaluation.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The new law also authorized additional personnel at the Treasury Department and the Justice Department, including the Community Relations Service, to respond to the fires. This effort was organized under the rubric of the National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF) which issued an interim report to the President on January 17, 1997.
The legislation also authorized a HUD loan guarantee program that can be used for church rebuilding.
VI. REFLECTIONS ON THE NCATF
The NCATF interim report indicates that the ATF and FBI have investigated 328 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings occurring at houses of worship between January 1, 1995 and January 7, 1997. This does not include vandalism or the desecration of houses of worship, nor does it include fires determined to be accidental. Of the 328 cases investigated, at least 138 were fires at African-American churches, and three quarters of these were in the South. ''Arsons at all houses of worship continue to be reported in significant numbers,'' says the report.
Task Force members had some initial rough spots with local populations victimized by church arson and vandalism. Part of this was caused by failure to recognize that the community not only needed to have the crimes investigated, but also needed help to feel whole again, to overcome its sense of violation. Unfortunately, FBI and ATF officials in some cases adopted a purely prosecutorial stance, taking the position that everyone was a suspect, and acting accordingly. Our branch presidents have told us of instances in which people who already felt victimized were subjected to long interrogations and cross-examinations, leaving them feeling victimized again, and exacerbating the suspicions they already held toward local law enforcement officials.
The Task Force has since taken steps to ease these tensions, including bringing in agents who are not native to the area. They have also worked with CRS at Justice in trying to resolve these concerns. We understand the posture of the Task Force to be ''proceed with sensitivity, but also where the evidence takes you.'' If this is the posture, it is very important that the CRS work actively in the community to address the other part of this problem that the community, violated, be helped to feel whole again. That won't happen by treating everyone as a suspect. These are by and large small churches in small communities. The people are scared, intimidated, and suspicious.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The necessary ambivalence between the prosecutorial/investigative function of the Task Force and the function of calming the community after an episode of violence is best worked out by sensitivity training for investigators, and by more aggressive outreach and networking by CRS. This demonstrates that the community at large cares about what happens. People can thus feel better even if there are no arrests. Now people can feel that someone is on their side.
If on the one hand, Task Force members may have been overzealous in their investigations in some cases, in others, they were ''under-zealous.'' This was particularly a problem where the FBI and ATF officers were local, and may have shared the tendency of local law enforcement to underplay the existence of hate crime activity in their own jurisdictions, perhaps out of embarrassment, perhaps for other reasons. Local law enforcement, especially, has shown a tendency to make early statements to the press to the effect that ''this crime was not racially motivated,'' before all the facts are in. Such a case occurred in Charlotte, North Carolina, in which a thirteen-year-old Caucasian girl was involved, which was reported as non-racial but which later proved to have both racist and satanic motivations, according to Nelson Rivers, our Southeast Regional Director. In another case, near Macon, Georgia, reports from investigators close to the crime informed reporters that the perpetrators ''knew it was a black church,'' but Milton ''Buddy'' Nix, Jr., Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) insisted that there was no proof of racial motivation.
Victims must be assured that when they report a crime, the appropriate steps will be taken and their complaints will be treated seriously. The community needs visible signs that both local and federal law enforcement officials will strive to protect them. This is important evidence of the agency's concern and commitment to the community.
Finally, we are aware of continuing tension between local officials and Task Force officials.
VII. REFLECTIONS ON THE HUD LOAN PROGRAM
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In our view, HUD has made a serious commitment in this emergency situation. They came up with the resources, and worked hard with the Task Force and the White House. But they were not getting through to these small rural congregations, filled with people for whom the paperwork of applying for HUD loans was very intimidating. In addition, the notion of borrowing so much money, even at very low interest rates, was a daunting prospect.
Representatives from the Center for Democratic Renewal tell us that where people apply, they have no problems getting money. However, the National Rebuilding Initiative Task Force, established by President Clinton, had by February identified only 13 churches it believed would qualify for government-backed loans. (See Chris Burritt, Only 2 Churches Have Applied, Atlanta J & Const. Feb. 23, 1997 at C6. According to the article, out of $10 million authorized, only $232,000 had been disbursed, between two churches which have applied for government assistance.)
HUD needs to increase its technical assistance. We have spoken to HUD officials, and encouraged them to be more pro-active, taking a page from some of their other initiatives with faith communities, giving instructions on how to use HUD programs. Certainly the National Council of Churches can continue to be helpful here.
VIII. FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS
According to Mary Frances Berry, Chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission, overall racial tension in the United States is the reason for racist church burnings, finding, especially in the South, ''rigid pockets of segregation and an unmistakable undercurrent of racial animosity.'' Approximately two-thirds of the suspects in church arsons against African-American churches are white. In addition, negative or hate talk radio and political rhetoric minimizing the importance of discrimination have contributed to this resurgence of racial divisiveness and violent behavior.
I think we can all agree that these church burnings are events which should never have happened. We can all, I think, congratulate ourselves for responding appropriately to the emergency as it arose. But to prevent such emergencies, such crises, from becoming more and more recurrent in our society, more remains to be done, to root out the culture which supports such occurrences.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCA. Enforce existing laws
Discrimination in housing, employment, education, and even public accommodations continues, and this creates an atmosphere in which hate crimes such as church fires can thrive. We know that we still have deep racial issues in our culture--Texaco and other revelations of corporate discrimination, the Rodney King videotape, the Good Old Boy Roundup that so embarrassed the country and revealed that the federal government itself is not immune to the virus of racism.
For laws to be enforced, law enforcement agencies must be funded. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, EEOC, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Labors' Office of Federal Contract Compliance, HUD's Fair Housing Enforcement Office, and the Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights all need increased funding to address both the long-term and short-term problems associated with discrimination and with hate crime violence in the United States. The President's budget calls for increased funding for all of these agencies. Along with other members of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), we encourage you to meet those recommendations and, indeed, to exceed them.
In addition, we urge you to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was vigorous in its response to church burnings.
We urge you to restore funding for the Community Relations Service. CRS has been a key factor in the church arson arena, reducing racial polarization, bridging law enforcement and minority communities, facilitating biracial rebuilding efforts, and training law enforcement on cultural diversity and race relations. We reiterate our support for the work of CRS in collaboration with the FBI and ATF.
B. Renew America's commitment to vigorously combat hate crimes
It is very important to continue to improve data collection, of the numbers of minorities in our society as well as the number of instances in which they are subjected to intimidation and violence. The perennial (or should I say, decennial) undercount of minorities in the Census results in underrepresentation in the legislature and makes it difficult for civil rights enforcement, both public and private, to do its proper job.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regarding the collection of hate crimes data, hate crime reporting statues force an official acknowledgment of, and response to, every reported hate crime motivated by bigotry and bias. Such laws can help shape and complement law enforcement response and build the growing societal awareness of the problem. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act is very important in light of the continuing debate in the majority community over whether this is really happening. Is it insurance opportunism? Juvenile pranks? Better statistics will put much of this controversy to rest. In the absence of data, you simply cannot discern the scope of the problem. The problem of local law enforcement agencies refusing to participate in HCSA in 1994 must also be addressed. While there may be resistance among some local law enforcement officials to enforcing hate crimes laws, the majority of the American population supports prosecution of hate crimes.
We also need hate crimes reporting units, not only to collect information and statistics but analyze and process it, creating victim and offender profiles and motive and activity patterns to assist law enforcement in designing and directing law enforcement resources in response. This will help victims targeted for characteristics over which they have no control, help them feel empowered to report incidents, and not feel that reporting will cause them to be targeted again. Such units are needed in federal as well as local law enforcement agencies. With the Leadership Conference, we urge that you make the receipt of Department of Justice technical assistance grants and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funds contingent upon HCSA data collection. As the LCCR Report on Hate Crimes states, ''a combination of presence, prevention, and outreach to minority communities is the best deterrent to hate crimes.''
It is also important to look at creating a mechanism, whether by law or by administrative practice, for processing ''incidents'' that do not have a criminal motive. These can help create an atmosphere in which more serious offenses can take place.
I conclude by urging Members of the Committee and the Congress to remember that these church burnings served as a reality check for us all. While many believed that racism was dead, that we had achieved a ''color-blind'' society, the church fires, along with videotaped police beatings of black men and audio taped comments by corporate bigots, combined in 1996 to amplify that reality check. The continuing issue of racial tension in this country requires programs and agencies to fight injustice and discrimination, as well as the public commitment of opinion leaders to fight a growing culture that says ''racism doesn't really exist; therefore we can practice it with impunity.''
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The NAACP remains vigilant, but it should not stand alone. From our beginnings as an organization we have felt proud to provide leadership to the entire country on finishing the unfulfilled promise of our founding democracy. In the face of a thriving and growing racism industry in this country, we will step forward, as we always have. But we do not expect to be alone.
With the Church Arson Prevention Act, and with the energetic responses from the President, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the ATF, we see that we have allies in this fight upon whom we can depend. We are committed, by an 87-year old mandate, to eradicate all vestiges of discrimination on the basis of race. We expect no less of our government, We expect no less of you.
Associated Press, ''Congress Passes Tougher Penalties for Church Burnings,'' Florida Today, June 28, 1996.
Penny Bender, ''Black Churches Pledge to Rebuild, Groups Unite for $8 Million in Renovations,'' Florida Today, January 28, 1997.
William Booth, ''In Church Fires, a Pattern but No Conspiracy; Investigators Say Climate of Racism, Not Hate Groups, Drives Arsonists,'' Washington Post, June 19, 1996.
Chris Burritt, ''Around the South/Church Fires Aftermath: Only 2 Churches Have Applied for U.S. Loans,'' Atlanta Journal and Constitution, February 23, 1997.
The Christian Century, ''Rights Panel Reports on Church Burnings,'' Vol. 113, 1996.
Michael Fletcher, ''No Linkage in Black Church Arsons; Justice Department Lists 28 Attacks in 17 Months,'' Washington Post, May 22, 1996.
Michael Fletcher, ''Church Fires Said to Reflect tension; Problem DeepRooted, Rights Agency Asserts,'' Washington Post, October 10, 1996.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dorothy Gilliam, ''The Political Tinder for Church Arsons,'' Washington Post, July 6, 1996.
Joe Holley, ''Who Was Burning the Black Churches?'' Columbia Journalism Review, Vol. 35, 1996.
Leadership Conference Education Fund & Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, ''Cause for Concern: Hate Crime In America,'' January 1997.
National Church Arson Task Force, ''Interim Report of the President,'' January 1997.
Jim Nesbitt, ''Hate Crimes as American as Pie, Experts Call 'isms' Deeply Rooted,'' New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 16, 1996.
Peter Steinfels, ''Beliefs,'' New York Times, October 19, 1996.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Mr. McDougall.
I want our last witness, Pastor Elder Theodore Myers, to understand that we operate on the Wedding Feast at Canna theory here. We save the best to last, and I just don't want you to feel isolated because we are finally getting to you. [Laughter.]
Before we terminate and before we hear from Pastor Myers, I just want to say how illuminating the statements have been today. We have talked beyond just the data on the fires. The fires are a manifestation of real evil and ''malevolence,'' and they manifest themselves in a thousand ways in a thousand places every day. The dirty look, the unkind word is a form of church burning in the sense that it betrays this racism which is a defect of the soul, and I don't know anybody who's got an IQ above room temperature who doesn't know that there's lot of racism. It is ''the'' problem in America today.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I just want to say this: we're fighting with one arm behind our back until religious values replace street values, and that's not going to happen until parents can send kids to a religious school without having to be wealthy. That's not going to happen until faith-based communities can deliver services the Government provides without covering up the Crucifix or the Star of David or putting the Ten Commandments in a drawer. Our Government was founded on neutrality, upon the notion that the Government will treat all religions the same. It will not prefer one religion over others. But to have an unbreakable wall, which is a metaphor, which keep religious values from reaching the kids who are learning their moral values in the alleys, we're fighting with our hands tied. Until people understand vouchers aren't going to destroy the public school system, they're going to give parents a chance at competition in education and let their kids get some moral values. You say the family ought to give them--there is no family in many of these places, or only half a family--a tired woman who's trying to keep body and soul together and support her kids. But we're on the wrong track when we treat religions, all of them, as some hostile, alien force and then wonder why our kids have no grounding, no moral anchors.
But you know that, and I'm pounding on an open door. Let's hope we do something about it.
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I would ask for equal time----
Mr. HYDE. You want equal time, did you say? You'll get recognized, and you'll have your 5 minutes. I didn't time myself, but I don't think I took more than 5 minutes. [Laughter.]
But I'd love to debate you on this, Mr. Watt. If you think we're doing fine and we don't need moral values to take street values----
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Mr. WATT. No, I don't think the debate is about whether we're going fine or not. If we're going to have a debate, we can have a debate about vouchers, but, in general, I don't disagree with what you're saying, but----
Mr. HYDE. Well, vouchers are part of the problem.
Mr. WATT. Well, if----
Mr. HYDE. Anyway----
Mr. WATT. We won't do this right now.
Mr. HYDE [continuing]. You and I will argue that out on the little train going over to the floor.
Mr. WATT. I'll give you my positions on vouchers on my time. [Laughter.]
Mr. HYDE. All right. In any event, our final witness today is Pastor Elder Theodore Myers. Mr. Myers is the founder and pastor of the South Richland Bible Way Church in Gadsden, SC. That church supports a school, the Central Carolina Christian Academy, of which he's the founder and director.
Pastor Myers' church was burned in February 1995, and he will share with us the efforts undertaken to rebuild his church, the progress of such efforts, and the assistance he's received from the Congress of National Black Churches and other entities.
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Pastor Myers served in the U.S. Navy and has a bachelor's degree from Benedict College and a master's degree from the University of South Carolina.
Thank you for your saintly patience, and we're happy to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF ELDER THEODORE MYERS, PASTOR, SOUTH RICHLAND BIBLE WAY CHURCH, GADSDEN, SC
Pastor MYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We certainly are very grateful to be here today and to share with you the things that we have in our minds about the church burnings and to talk about the law that has been enacted as a result of the church burning.
First of all, I would like to say that I am, of course, Elder Theodore Myers. I'm the pastor of South Richland Bible Way Church in Gadsden, SC, and as we give testimony, I hope to share with you some things perhaps which will open your eyes. I would like also to have my full testimony in the record.
Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
Pastor MYERS. Thank you, sir.
I could probably best serve you by telling you about the tragedy that we had which was our church burning. It occurred on February 12, 1995. On a very cold, rain-drenched night, I stood soaking wet and watched our church as fire tore it through it, burning out of control, burning so much of ourselves along with it. That night was perhaps one of the most horrifying nights of my life. I stood there fighting tears while absorbing the pain and anguish of children, teenagers, and adults who, along with me, could not believe what they were seeing and who could not possibly understand why this was happening.
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As I watched the children and teenagers, I felt their pain. I felt their hurt, and I witnessed there that night a deeper hurt than I'd ever seen before in young people in my life. I have seen people given over to grief. I've seen young people grieving because of a loved one who had passed. But I'd never seen such deep grief in young people before. I saw teenagers who seemingly almost went into shock as that church burned that night. Little did I know then that much of the mental anguish and trauma that had set in at that time would remain even until today.
Sometimes when we have care and concern for those around us, we often forget our own cares and we forget our own concerns. It was like that with me for a while until I realized that there was a group somewhere that could give some assistance. That's when I learned about the National Council of Churches and the Center for Democratic Renewal. I had become myself very disturbed inside as I had been trying to iron-out some problems with the fire and what had happened. I never really knew. I was trying to reason within myself what to do and how to inspire our people to go on. I felt alone. I felt as though there was nothing left almost in some instances. I felt helpless and somewhat hopeless.
Then I learned about the work that was being done by the groups that I mentioned, and I contacted them, and when I contacted them, I found other things that were there: somebody who could come in and look after what had really happened, because it never really came to us. I'm grateful for the law that was enacted, because amidst the debris in that church was a body. A young black man's body was there. We never knew what happened, never found out yet.
Some people have criticized those of us who have suffered great loss, accused us of being the initiators of our loss. They would have people to believe that we, ourselves, would cause our own churches to burn. In short, they would make us, the victims, make us who are the victims, the villains.
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Mr. Chairman, members of this committee, I speak for all of the pastors, especially those in South Carolina. We thank the Congress for enacting the legislation that deals specifically with the violation of our rights as people, as citizens, and as human beings. We thank the President and the law enforcement agencies which have acted to support us during these very difficult and trying times. We, as pastors who are still suffering, along with our congregation, are not misguided. We know that the burning of our churches has been and is racially motivated.
Mr. Chairman, as a people, we love our church. Regardless of where it is or what it's like, it's considered to be our church. It is not only the place where we worship God; it is where we gather to share our hopes and our dreams, to meet old friends and to make new ones, and, of course, to socialize. It is where we mourn and bury our loved ones, where we marry and seek to initiate new life. It is, to a great degree, where we learn about who we are.
Are the burnings a conspiracy? Are they motivated by hate? I believe, and the other pastors believe, that this is a racially-motivated conspiracy. It is an act of putting those people in their place; as the acts of South Carolina have been for so many years, so are they now. The idea appears to be directed toward terrorizing the black community through violence, brutality, and random acts of hate.
We have too many attacks. We've had them already: attack on our person, attack on our property, and in this case--or these cases--an attack on our culture. The fires were not isolated acts of hate. There had to be too many things in common. Most of the churches were vandalized first; so was ours--to defecation being placed in the church in many places. Most of them had signs of stakeouts where people had sat and smoked cigarettes and had beer cans around. Many of our churches had been desecrated, and too many of the fires correspond to a specific timeframe. Most of the fires occur sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. These were not random acts of violence; these were well organized and designed to happen systematically throughout specific areas.
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When we learned of our church and how the fire had come in, and when we learned about what had been done, and when we looked at what had happened, we realized that we had too many things that were going against us. We had a church of over 100 young people in a choir, a community choir of over 100 members. Our church seated 625, 650 people. We had 350 in the congregation, and that church sponsored a school, kindergarten through 12th grade, with more than 150 students in it.
The school has suffered. We had a housing project on the drawing board for 15 families. All of these were private funds; nothing came from the Federal Government; nothing came from outside agencies. These are people who had got together to make these things happen. The school has suffered because of the loss of the church. The choir that was from the community has dwindled away because we are not traveling 25 miles one way. We've been placed outside of the community. We are, indeed, suffering for a lot of the things that we could have put together.
The community itself loved that church, and the community is suffering because that church is not there. The question is: Are we to be hated because we tried to teach about how we can work together as a people rather than work against one another? How easy it would have been for us to be filled with hate. It would have left us with such a good feeling, I suppose, to have been able to hate the persons who had violated us. Any of the churches or the congregations that were violated had a natural right to hate. After all, why should anyone or any group that has done nothing, nothing to anyone, be the target of violence? Why should anyone be the subject of terrorism, hate, malice? And for no reason at all. Why should people be attacked simply because of the color of their skin? Is not the desire to be free as much a part of a black American as it is a part of any other American? Justice and equality are not qualities held dear by only a select group of American citizens. All of us are Americans who hold fast to all of those things that surround the words of liberty, justice, and freedom.
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The church and congregation which I have been a part of, and which have been violated, could easily have questions such as the ones we asked: Are we to be hated because we try to teach people how to live together, work together, as a people, rather than to work against one another? All of these things could be asked by any one of us.
But, Mr. Chairman, members of this committee, considering all the reasons why the pastors and congregations of burned churches could feel justified in endearing themselves with anger and hatred, on behalf of all those pastors, I testify to you today that these pastors and congregations are far beyond those base and somewhat primitive emotions. Instead of going to the idea of hate, love has come out of those fires. I have seen those congregations come together and love people. Much has been shared. There's a greater love today than there has ever been, because of those fires perhaps, but we're seeing great people come together, and because of the people coming together, we've learned how to really share with one another. We've had a great, great opportunity to meet some people coming from the National Council of Churches, to meet people coming from the Center for Democratic Renewal, from the Congress of National Black Churches. They have helped to inspire us, so that we will not hate, so that we will not feel bad, so that we will now go on.
And I'd like to say that today the burnings have slowed down, but the hate has not. The burnings have slowed down, but the atmosphere of, and expressions of, strong hatred is still there. The burnings have slowed down; the hate groups are even more active now than they were before. We are building after the burning--not in hate, not in malice, but recognizing the unfortunate hate and malice that is so active in our community. If our churches are to stop burning out of hate, quiet people must speak out against hate. If our churches are to stop burning out of hate, appalled people must show clearly what side they stand in. In short, good people must not say that they are good; they must show what qualities they possess that make them good.
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We at South Richland Bible Way are in the process of rebuilding our church. The foundation is being laid. We're struggling. We don't have enough money. But we're working, and we believe that God is going to do exactly what he promised.
I thank you for the bill. I thank you because somewhere somehow someone will not have to worry about whether or not something could have been done about something that happened in a church. Someone will know.
Thank you very kindly for the time that you've given me on today.
[The prepared statement of Pastor Myers follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ELDER THEODORE MYERS, PASTOR, SOUTH RICHLAND BIBLE WAY CHURCH, GADSDEN, SC
Mr. Chairman, members of the House Judiciary Committee, my name is Elder Theodore Myers. I am the pastor of South Richland Bible Way Church, Gadsden, South Carolina.
I could serve you best by telling you about our tragedy which occurred on February 12, 1995. On a very cold and rain drenched night, I stood soaking wet and watched our church as a fire tore through it, burning out of control. That night was perhaps one of the most horrifying nights of my life. I stood there fighting tears, absorbing the pain and anguish of children, teenagers, and adults who could not believe what they were witnessing and who could not possibly understand why.
As I watched the children and teenagers, I felt their pain. I felt their hurt and I witnessed there that night a deeper hurt than I had ever seen in young people in my life. I had seen young people grieve over the death of a friend or loved one, but never had I seen grief so deep. I saw teenagers who seemingly almost went into shock as that church burned that night. Little did I know then that much of the mental anguish and trauma that set in that night would still be carried until this very day.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My concern about the grief of others has taken me beyond concern for my own emotions. I never realized how much I was hurting until I became involved with the National Council of Churches. Through the efforts of the Council, I was brought into contact with other churches and pastors who had experiences similar to my own. They too had suffered fires. Those pastors and church members had such deep pain, and yet they were trying to console someone else.
Some people have criticized those of us who have had our churches to burn, saying that we set the fires ourselves, or that the fires were not racially motivated. Mr. Chairman, members of this Committee, it is my deep opinion that those people could never be so far from the truth. In the black community, for the most part, we love our church. It is not only the place where we worship God, it is where we gather to share our hopes and dreams, to meet old friends and make new ones, and to socialize. It is where we mourn and bury our loved ones, where we marry and seek to initiate a new life. It is to a great degree where we learn about whom we are.
Are the burnings a conspiracy? Are they racially motivated? I believe with every fiber of my own being that this is a racially motivated conspiracy. It is an act of Putting those people in their place. As the acts of the South have been for so many years, so are they now. The idea appears to be, terrorize the black community through violence, brutality, and sheer terrorism. We have had too many attacks, attacks on our persons, attacks on our property and this is an attack on our culture. I do not believe that all of these fires could be isolated and yet have so many things in common. Most of us were vandalized. Most of us saw acts or signs of stakeouts. Many of our churches had been desecrated and too many of the fires correspond to a specific time frame at night. Most took place shortly after midnight. These were not random acts of violence. These acts were well organized and designed to happen systematically throughout specific areas.
When we learned of how other churches were being burned because of people's apparent desire to destroy what we hold most dear, we were angry. We have more than 100 young people in a community choir. We had ten Sunday school classes and two other choirs. We had a church home of more than 300 people with a seating capacity of more than six hundred. That church supported a school with an enrollment of more than 150 students, K12. That church was in the process of providing housing for 15 families. The school has suffered, the housing project was literally destroyed, the 100-voice community choir of young people from age seven to 18 has fallen apart. The church has been forced out of that community to an area more than 20 miles away. The entire congregation has suffered because of the fire. The very thought of what happened to us caused our anger and pain to flare. Are we to be hated because we try to teach about how we can work together as a people rather than work against one another?
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How easy it would have been to be filled with hate. But the National Council of Churches and the Congress of National Black Churches have helped us so much. No, we are not back in our church yet. But through the work of the National Council of Churches, we have been able to get some assistance to help in the process and the Council has worked to help bring resource persons together with us who have pledged their support in helping us to rebuild. But more than that, we have met great people from all denominations and from many nationalities who have shown us that there is a chance, if given the least opportunity, where people of all races can work together in harmony.
It would have been so easy and it would have felt so good to hate, because we felt so violated. Why should we who did nothing to anyone be a target of violence? Why should we be subjected to terrorism, hate, and malice? It was easy for us to ask the question, why should people be attacked simply because of the color of their skin? Is not the desire to be free as much a part of a black person's being as it is that of any other American? Justice and equality are not qualities held dear to only white America. All of us have the right to call ourselves Americans and we hold that quality dear. After all, what did we do that was so terrible?
Are we to be hated because we try to teach about how we can work together as a people rather than work against one another? Can we be hated because we teach people that it is a greater virtue to love than to hate? Should we not teach people how to work to secure the blessings of life for themselves rather than depending on public funds to support them? Is it wrong to help young people become better trained and educated, teaching them how to free themselves from drugs, crime, and the streets?
We don't believe that these things are wrong and we want to get on to doing them again in the Gadsden, South Carolina community. Work is currently being done so that we can have our church and affiliated programs back in that community. We do not have enough finances to do the work yet, but we believe that there are organizations with a vision similar to our own. We believe that we will be able to receive some help to rebuild from the Council of National Black Churches. The Council of National Black Churches has helped us tremendously through networking with other organizations and trying to find ways to prevent the burning of our churches in the future. There are other organizations that we are praying will support us. Our need is great, but the work that we are doing is greater. We have been slowed down, but by the grace of God, we have not and will not stop.
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INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 82 TO 83 HERE
Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much, Elder Myers.
Now we will have a question period from the members here, and the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers, is recognized.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Chairman Hyde.
Dr. Campbell, Mr. McDougall, Elder Myers, what more should we consider doing at our level, and what police, the ATF, the FBI, the State law enforcement? Where do we go from here? Because, after all, that's what this is, an oversight hearing. So please give us your comments.
Reverend CAMPBELL. One suggestion referred to in my testimony, is that we believe that you could be of help to us in negotiating with the banks who are considering loans to the churches, especially since these loans are now backed-up with HUD money. However, despite that, some churches are having difficulty getting the banks to put forward that kind of loan. Banks need to see that is not simply a matter of rebuilding the church. That is a sign that the community itself is both rebuilding and beginning to confront some of their own racist practices, and trying to rebuild the community in the face of that.
Mr. HYDE. Dr. Campbell, would you provide us with a list of churches and loans that have been turned down or that they're having trouble with? Could you give us specifics, so we could lean on some people.
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Reverend CAMPBELL. Right. I could give you one example now, but we would prefer to submit it in writing.
Mr. HYDE. A list would be very helpful, and we will have our staffs jointly see what we can do about that.
Reverend CAMPBELL. All right, very good. We will begin to provide a case-by-case report to your staff.
Mr. HYDE. That's a good suggestion.
Reverend CAMPBELL. Thank you.
[The information follows:]
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 84 TO 92 HERE
Mr. MCDOUGALL. Representative Conyers, I did say in my statement that we feel that the distribution of Department of Justice technical assistance grants and community-oriented policing services grants should be made contingent upon the evidence of local enforcement, taking these kinds of things seriously. One of them might be the establishment of a hate crimes unit that would do more than just collect data, but also process it and develop profiles of victims and offenders. It's been our understanding that there are a number of local jurisdictions that have not yet cooperated even by providing the types of data that the Hate Crimes Statistics Act requires.
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Clearly, an atmosphere of discrimination and intolerance fosters these kinds of things, and as a result, we ask also that recommendations be made for full funding for all civil rights agencies of the Federal Government, so that they may further pursue the work that they do. We are particularly impressed with the work of the Community Relations Service in their interaction with ATF and FBI in the local community. We think more of that work needs to be done. There's a lot of suspicion on the ground. These are rural areas where a strike has been made against these people's most precious possession. They feel violated, and in some cases investigating agents still feel that their primary objective is to find the perpetrator, and in some cases they have not paid sufficient attention to the need for the community to feel whole again. That's something that the Community Relations Service can help with.
One other point: my colleague here mentioned a kind of a redlining issue in terms of the banks providing money to rebuild the churches. There was, I believe, an article in USA Today a while ago that indicated that a number of these churches are finding it difficult to get insurance. When they had insurance, it was canceled. In some cases their premiums have increased. I'm not sure what the committee can do about that, but it's something that is a kind of redlining issue, and we'd appreciate your taking a look at that.
Mr. HYDE. If you could get specifics, perhaps not you, but Dr. Campbell, whoever has the resources, we'd like to have that.
Reverend CAMPBELL. We can do that. At one point I was at a breakfast at the White House where we were discussing this issue, and I remember Vice President Gore at that point said that he would take some special responsibility in dealing with the insurance companies. My understanding is he did have a meeting with some of the major insurance companies, but we do have evidence--and we can give it to you--that either the cost of the insurance is too high for the churches--or this is one of the really distressing things, when a church is rebuilt adequate insurance is difficult to obtain. If they then cannot get insured, then they risk having the same problem again. So we really need to work with the insurance issue.
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Mr. HYDE. Well, we can't pass legislation requiring them to cover, but we can exercise ''moral-suasion,'' which sometimes can be useful.
Reverend CAMPBELL. I think it would be fair to say you're not without influence. [Laughter.]
Mr. HYDE. Well, I wouldn't ask that of Mr. Conyers; he thinks I'm totally without influence. [Laughter.]
Mr. CONYERS. I think you have too much influence. [Laughter.]
Mr. HYDE. Have you concluded your questions?
Pastor Myers, did you have some addition?
Pastor MYERS. Yes, sir. I wanted to add the fact that I have had problems with insurance prior. The insurance companies are not always honest. The fact of the matter is, if you're in a rural church, they seek to cancel your policy. And I think that's something that has to be looked at very carefully.
The other part is that losses ought to be considered. In South Carolina, for instance, the fire that we had occurred in February 1995. With the loss of a life and the loss of such property, the investigation was very, very poorly done.
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Whenever people experience loss of a certain magnitude, there ought to be a definite pattern of some kind of inspection, some kind of study, to see what could possibly be the case. These are things that ought to be done.
And with banks, we're not always going to be given the same kind of treatment. The amount that they're seeking to charge for interest is not always going to be altruistic. It's going to be more profit-motivated. So I've had some problem, and I'm going home now to look at a part of that myself. These are a few of the things.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Elder Myers.
We have just received a report from the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress right on this topic: ''Incendiary Attacks on African-American Churches and Insurance Coverage Issues.'' And we're going to study it very carefully. Meanwhile, any specifics would help us, and if you wish to clothe them in anonymity, that's OK, too, but just give us what you can.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to follow up on that a little bit.
Dr. Campbell, are you aware of the efforts of the attorney general of Virginia to look into the insurance matter? I thought we had solved the problem in Virginia anyway.
Reverend CAMPBELL. I don't personally know that. Some of our staff may be working with that.
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Mr. SCOTT. If you could have them check that specifically, I'd appreciate it, because the attorney general has made a great deal out of this, and I thought we had solved it. If it's still a problem in Virginia, we'd like to know, so that he can follow through again.
Elder Myers, you spoke about the interest rate. What kind of interest rate is being charged on these loans?
Pastor MYERS. Well, we do not have one yet, but the interest rate that we're looking at is not--if we're talking about 7 percent, that's not what I call low interest.
Mr. SCOTT. Is that a 30-year fixed rate?
Pastor MYERS. My only thing was to question about what it is; I have not formally submitted the application.
Mr. SCOTT. Seven percent 30-year fixed rate is, my recollection, is that's not a bad rate; it's very high for a variable rate, but not a fixed rate.
Dr. Campbell, do you have any information on what the interest rate is that's being charged?
Reverend CAMPBELL. Let me just ask the folks sitting behind me. I don't think we have a precise number.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. It's for a guaranteed loan, but, as I indicated, the interest rates would vary depending on whether it's a variable rate and a fixed 30-year rate, for example. Could you provide us with whatever you have?
Reverend CAMPBELL. Yes.
Mr. SCOTT. And, Elder Myers, whatever you have in terms of what interest rates people are being charged, so we can compare them with a little more scientific method than what I happen to think off the top of my head. We can compare it to what the going rate is in certain areas.
Reverend CAMPBELL. I think the best thing we can do is to give you the specifics on the list of churches that we are working with in terms of both insurance and this banking issue, and where the HUD loan is being used or where there are some difficulties.
[See p. 152.]
Mr. SCOTT. OK. Now, Dr. Campbell, I think in your testimony you mentioned the question of looking into the causes of the church fires. Were you talking about the specific fire or the underlying atmosphere that creates the situation?
Reverend CAMPBELL. I was talking especially about the underlying issues. One of the things that I think for the public has been most destructive is when those who don't particularly want to deal with this issue of the burnings dubbed it a hoax. Very early on in the press there were those who said this is just a hoax; that there's really nothing to this. At one point the National Council was accused of drumming up the issue in order to get money into our coffers.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That spin has been much more destructive, I think, than people realize. We had a couple of foundations that pulled out their contributions at that point. Particularly the article in the Wall Street Journal raised questions about whether these church fires were actual and whether their was a racist base for them.
Our concern has been that, if you go into a community and what you're depending on is that the investigators say that it was racist act--you heard Mr. Johnson say today, they cannot say that until they have actual legal proof that that is true and they can bring that case to fruition. What we believe is that you must also look at the community in which that church is located. There's a very specific one in Lauderdale, MS, where there is no clear evidence that the arson was racist, but there's every evidence that the community in which that church is located has suffered many acts of violence that clearly are racially motivated. So I think in order to interpret it to the public, we have to be able to talk about what's happening in the communities, not just what the final decision on arson may be in a court of law. And so we're very concerned about behavior in communities that has fueled these fires.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. McDougall, part of the underlying cause is discrimination. You mentioned the EEOC. Are you finding that the backlog of the EEOC makes filing complaints problematic?
Mr. MCDOUGALL. That has been the history of the agency. Up until about 1980, the EEOC was focused almost primarily on pattern-and-practice cases, systemic violations of civil rights in the employment area. About 1980, the focus of the Commission began to shift to individual complaints. The individual complaints began to overwhelm the docket, as far as I can tell.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A directive was issued, I believe in 1995, to begin to realign the docket from exclusively individual complaints, by which you get relief for a couple of people, but you're not having the kind of impact that you used to have. A directive was issued by the Commission, I believe it was in 1995, to begin to enrich the mixture of cases, so that more pattern-and-practice cases were brought; more systemic employment discrimination cases came to the docket. That is a process which I believe EEOC is finding requires a change in culture, that in the 12 years or more that they were primarily investigating individual cases, a certain kind of protocol was developed; certain expectations were developed about how investigation would take place.
It is my understanding that the general counsel----
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. McDougall, I think my time has expired, and we're treading a little bit--could you just tell me how long the backlog is; if somebody files a complaint now, how long it takes to hear that case?
Mr. MCDOUGALL. I'm not in a position to answer that question, sir, but I know that we are--I just wanted to let you know that the NAACP is working with the EEOC right now making linkages with our regional organizations and the local office of the EEOC to try to help----
Mr. SCOTT. OK, I've gone over a little bit, and I appreciate the chairman's indulgence.
Mr. HYDE. Surely. The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was here for the first panel, and, unfortunately, missed the testimony of Dr. Campbell, and I assume also Reverend Jackson, and I just, first, want to apologize to Dr. Campbell and Reverend Jackson, if he did testify, for missing their testimony.
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Mr. HYDE. He did, and he mentioned your name several times. [Laughter.]
Sorry you missed it. It was all congratulatory.
Mr. WATT. Well, in that case, he was probably misguided anyway, Mr. Chairman. [Laughter.]
So I probably didn't miss much if he was laudatory of anything I had to say.
Second, I want to, on a serious note, welcome Mr. McDougall, who I noticed the chairman, in one of the earlier introductions, said he wouldn't hold it against somebody because they went to Harvard, but Mr. McDougall and I were in law school together, so I hope you won't hold that against him, either. I know I just destroyed all of your credibility. [Laughter.]
I don't really have any questions. I do want to take just a second of time to respond to the chairman's entreat about charter schools, and I know he will find it surprising when he realizes that I actually support vouchers subject to certain conditions. I support them if we are going to make them universal and assure that they pay all of the cost of every student who receives one. I just think it's disingenuous to say to students, ''I will give you a $2,000 voucher for an $8,000 cost to go to a private school,'' and then say that we are putting everybody on an equal footing; we have leveled the playing field. Under those circumstances, it seems to me that all we have done is subsidized those people who could already afford to go to a private school. We haven't given anybody any real choice in that process.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So as soon as the chairman introduces a bill which guarantees vouchers universally and full coverage, 100 percent, like public education does, then I'm going to be on that bill as an original co-sponsor with him. And until that happens, I will continue to oppose vouchers, as I already have.
I want to commend the chairman and the ranking member for putting together this hearing. I'm especially delighted that some people took the opportunity to look prospectively rather than just looking retrospectively. I think it's extremely important to look retrospectively to learn lessons about what has happened, and I was extremely enlightened by Elder Myers' testimony that put a real-life real face on these fires out there. But unless we learn something from looking backwards and understand that many of the conditions that led to the fires in the first place continue to exist, that go well beyond simply dirty looks, although I agree with the chairman that that's a part of it, many of those conditions are still out there permeating our communities. We all have an obligation to do whatever we can whenever we can every day and every minute to try to address those, and not just be silent and say that, oh, no, it's not me.
I was particularly struck by the comments of Elder Myers in that regard--for the call for those who are really outraged by this to stand up and say it, and to say, ''We stand with those who will not tolerate this.''
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. And, parenthetically, I just want to comment that not every private school is a Sidwell Friends or a St. Albans or even a Georgetown Prep. There's some little cheap ones that are very good. My own parish school, St. Charles, no way would it cost $8,000 to go there.
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Mr. WATT. I hope the chairman understood that I was just using that as one example. Wherever you have a disparity--I don't--I mean, if it's $8,000----
Mr. HYDE. No, your point is a good one.
Mr. WATT. OK.
Mr. HYDE. And the purpose is to help poor people have access to options just like people of means have. That's the purpose.
Mr. WATT. No, I think the purpose is to assure that they have equal access. It's not to help them, because providing a little piece of the equation doesn't really get you there. We need educate, quality education, every single child in this country----
Mr. HYDE. You're right.
Mr. WATT [continuing]. And to just say we're going to help somebody doesn't level that playing field.
Mr. HYDE. Very well, the gentlelady from Houston is next.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you, and, likewise, to the panelists; let me thank you for your presence here and acknowledge that other meetings might have kept me from the full testimony. Mr. McDougall, I certainly cannot count you as one of my classmates, but certainly having been at Yale undergrad, let me say that your history preceded you, and in an excellent manner, your reputation. But we thank you for your presence here, and certainly the National Council of Churches and Elder Myers, Reverend Jackson, I thank him for his presence.
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Let me start with the National Council of Churches and simply acknowledge that you indicated that a number of the church burnings that were racially motivated had grown to 90, if I have your testimony--the numbers may not be correct--124 churches in all, and that we recognize that you are a multicultural, diverse organization. I'm familiar with your work. And we also recognize that other churches have been attacked, and I don't want us to diminish that at all. In fact, several churches that are majority churches, if you will, in my community, the community rallied around with great emotion.
But I would simply ask, Do you think that the task force that we have set up is doing all that it can do to combat the overall problem that deals with burning and racially-motivated burnings, and how we can be maybe more effective in doing that, and you might want to add any aspect that you want to talk about with respect to race.
Let me say to Elder Myers--and I do this and I ask questions as a lump, so that in case the light flashes, you still have the opportunity to answer. But I'm sorry that I missed Reverend Jackson, who I'm familiar with and certainly applaud any opportunities for economic development in our community. I understand that he is working with the Christian Coalition, if I am correct, on some of his efforts.
Elder Myers, you were eloquent in saying we've come a long way, but there are many more roads for us to tackle. And let me appreciate the way your church has expanded, and not only expanded, but overcome certainly the tragedy.
Do you not think that it might be instructive for the Christian Coalition to add to their charitable donations, as I understand they're doing around the country, some work within their own constituency on the question of racism, issues that are relevant to the innercity core community, for fear of saying, ''African-American''--I say, ''for fear''; the innercity is diverse with many different groups in it--and speak about those issues which then ultimately impact their legislators, who can talk about jobs, real investment, private investment, corporate hiring, the nonelimination of affirmative action. Tell me whether you think the route that they're going is effective.
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I'll yield to Dr. Campbell first, and then Elder Myers. Thank you so much for your presence.
Reverend CAMPBELL. Those are not only interesting, but provocative and exciting questions, and I wish we had a goodly length of time to discuss them. In many ways, the questions are exactly the questions that we have asked ourselves and that we have faced.
I believe personally that any time you say, ''Are we doing all we can,'' whether the question is about the task force that's been created or about the National Council of Churches, for that matter, when it comes to the issue of race, I think we have to say, no, we are not even beginning to do all that we can.
One of the things that we have encountered is that, as long as we said we were dealing with the rebuilding of churches, it was a very popular and well-supported effort. The minute that we said to people, ''We remind you that from the beginning we have said we will both rebuild the churches and deal with the underlying cause,'' I can tell you--and if we had time, I would give you some examples--that is much, much less popular an issue to deal with.
The other thing is that I believe that part of what we see here is an excellent private/public partnership. My hope is that those partnerships will continue and not simply fall off the screen just because we have rebuilt the churches. Those partnerships can continue to exist and they can exist as public/private partnerships to deal with the issue of race. It is still the Nation's most serious problem, and I agree with Pastor Myers--it's the reason I'm here--I believe white churches and white people have got to speak up on this issue.
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I just want to say a very, very brief word of thanks. I hope the Members of Congress are fully aware of what it meant for Congress and the Federal Government to get into this issue with us. As long as these church fires were simply isolated in local communities, they got no attention. It was not until it became a Federal, national issue that all of us would begin to deal with that issue. Now I think it gives all of us an opportunity to deal with the issue of race.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you. Pastor Elder Myers.
Pastor MYERS. The question with regards to whether or not there should be focusing more on the innercity, I think it's a very fine one. I do believe that when we look at the church burning issue, it was a high-profile issue at the time. If we're not concerned simply about raising the level of our own profiles, and we're really concerned about the issue of racism in America, I think the Christian Coalition would do well to focus attention on those things which are hard, and people do not necessarily receive at the same level that they would receive the church burning in a positive manner. I do believe that they need to tackle something that's harder.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your indulgence. I simply want to pay tribute to Mac Charles Jones, who worked so valiantly, and certainly my sympathy to the National Council of Churches and to his family, and may God be with his family.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady. And the gentlelady from California?
Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to start by saying I am, indeed, missing Rev. Mac Charles Jones today. I guess I do, as many, when you reflect on opportunities that you had to be some place and you couldn't be there, and you just sit and wish that you had been able to respond. It is a great loss.
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I'm delighted that you're here, and I'm pleased that you have taken time, all of you, to give leadership on this issue and to stay involve in ways that perhaps will create some real change.
My statement today really was not designed for you as much as it was for the members on the other side of aisle who are not here. I'm thankful to the chairman for his leadership and for being here today, and eternally grateful to the ranking member of this committee, Mr. John Conyers, who has been a leader for all of us for so long.
But I guess my heart really breaks because we saw some Members on the opposite side of the aisle kind of rally around the church burnings in an interesting way. It almost provided an opportunity for some people who are so bad on so many issues that underpin this issue--it provide an opportunity for them to say, ''I'm not as bad as you thought I was. Look how good I am about these church burnings. I want to do something help''--the same people who undermine all of our efforts to bring about justice and equality for all people in this Nation.
I want to tell you something: the redlining that you're experiencing with banks and insurance companies, that is what has been happening around this Nation in our communities historically, the inability to get loans, the inability to be insured--blocked by people who are public policymakers, who have had every opportunity to straighten it out. And I want to say to them today, this is not simply about trying to do something very limited for the churches at this point to make us look better. This really is about looking at public policy and understanding that the hopes and dreams of many people have been bashed because we haven't had the integrity or the will to do something about racism and discrimination.
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It is not enough to say, ''I'm going to contribute to the Christian Coalition, so that they can give a few dollars.'' The fact of the matter is some of the same people support impeachment no judges who have made decisions, such as Felton Henderson, on proposition 209 in California, to do something about equalizing opportunities for all people.
I am pleased that you're here because it gives us an opportunity to challenge on these issues one more time. I am very delighted about the leadership that this administration took, and to tell you the truth, they were more creative than I thought in making government work on an issue like this. I thought at first, well, all we can do is, you know, simply go out and arrest some people, but, you know, they got in there and they came up with some very meaningful ways by which we could be of real assistance, and I must applaud them for that.
But if there's anything that the church burnings have done for all of us, it's given us one more opportunity to be better than we are and to do the right thing by all people, and to challenge racism and discrimination and hatred and violence and meanness, and if we don't do that, we will have lost an opportunity to be real public policymakers dealing with the issues of the day.
Again, my words were intended for my friends on the opposite side of the aisle, who I believe really do need to understand and look at this redlining issue in relationship to the entire community.
Thank you for your work. Thank you for hanging in there. When you described how you felt as you watched a church burn, it just tore my heart up to hear what you went through at that precious moment. But, you know, Elder Myers, I really believe that we can be strengthened even when we are confronted with this kind of adversity, and that's who we are. And the people who fight in a progressive way to deal with these problems oftentimes have learned that, no matter how hard it gets, how difficult it is, how scary it is, that we rise even beyond the ashes to keep this fight going, and that we will not be deterred from doing it.
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Thank you all so very much.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady.
And, without objection, the following written statements will be included in the record: the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Council of Black Churches, the Center for Democratic Renewal, the Congressional Research Service report on ''Incendiary Attacks on African-American Churches and Insurance Coverage Issues,'' the National Church Arson Task Force, and the ''Interim Report for the President.'' Those will all be included in the record, and we will hold the record open for 24 hours, if something else comes in that somebody wants to make a part of the record. And, in advance, I will order that that be done.
[The prepared statements and report follow:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
It is a pleasure to submit testimony today on behalf of the President's National Arson Prevention Initiative.
The inclusion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today at this hearing is a clear indication of the partnership and cooperation that exists within the Federal government to combat the terrible crime of arson. Not only is the Federal government unified in its commitment to apprehend those responsible for burning houses of worship and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but the agencies represented here today, and several who are not present, are committed to preventing an arson fire from happening in the first place.
Let me first explain the National Arson Prevention Initiative in the context of the overall Administration's church arson efforts. You have heard today about the investigation and prosecution activities of the National Church Arson Task Force, and from Housing and Urban Development about the Church Rebuilding Initiative. While the National Arson Prevention Initiative has its roots in the tragic series of church fires that have occurred, the scope of the Initiative itself is much broader. The church fires have been a catalyst for bringing the issue of arson to a national stage.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Arson is a serious national problem. Arson robs, injures, and kills thousands of family and friends every year. In the United States, it is the leading cause of property loss due to fire and the second leading cause of fire death. Billions of dollars are lost in arson fires every year. The indirect economic losses from arson are even greater.
Arson is a violent crime of malicious intent. Arson is a troubled kid with a lighter. Arson is a hate monger with an axe to grind or gang member with something to prove. Arson is the urban disease that eats away at the core of our cities--and a pestilence in our rural communities.
Arson is a serious national problem--but it is fundamentally a local problem. The goal of the National Arson Prevention Initiative is to promote arson awareness and prevention efforts to individuals and communities. In the end, communities must take ownership of their particular arson problems and be part of their solutions. Real and lasting arson prevention can be Federally inspired; it cannot be Federally driven. When the President announced the National Arson Prevention Initiative in late June of last year, he asked FEMA to coordinate public and private sector resources to combat arson. From the outset, this Initiative has tried to apply available resources to support local solutions to this local problem.
FEMA has been joined in the arson prevention cause by the Departments of Justice, the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the Corporation for National Service. The cooperation has been unprecedented. But it is not just Federal agencies that are involved in this Initiative. A wide range of constituent groups and stakeholders have taken up the charge. Early on, the leaders of eight national fire service organizations resolved before the President to work within communities across the country to prevent arson. The two million members of the fire and emergency services remain committed to this effort.
In addition, FEMA continues to work closely with the national law enforcement organizations, church and voluntary groups, the insurance industry, and a myriad of crime prevention organizations. All of these organizations have a core of strong members and extensive networks that we have capitalized on to promote arson prevention. We also continue to be impressed by the interest and involvement of the Southern governors who have demonstrated leadership on the issue of arson prevention.
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With the cooperation among all levels of government, national organizations, and the private sector, we have been able to accomplish quite a lot, in a relatively short period of time. The efforts of the National Arson Prevention Initiative have been focused in three critical areas: public education and outreach, coordination of resources, and coalition building.
PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Within days of the announcement of the Initiative, FEMA established the National Arson Prevention Clearinghouse available through a toll-free number (18886033100) and accessible through FEMA's World Wide Web Site (www.fema.gov). In the last eight months, we have received over 12,000 telephone inquiries from all fifty States, the District of Columbia, and the Caribbean territories, and have filled requests for some 410,000 packets of arson prevention information.
Through this Clearinghouse, we provide information on available arson prevention training and grants. Working with the Insurance Committee for Arson Control and the fire service, we are able to provide fire safety and security inspections of houses of worship to those that request it. We also coordinate the delivery of arson prevention workshops across the country with the International Association of Arson Investigators. Callers to the Clearinghouse can not only find out how to organize arson and church watch programs, but also request more intensive technical assistance in fire investigation and arson task force evaluations. We have even been able to place arson inspection canines in communities with the support of State Farm Insurance. In recent months, the issue of juvenile presetting has received a great deal of attention from local news outlets, national media, and talk shows. The Clearinghouse has served as a referral center for parents of juvenile firesetters to get help from trained mental health professionals.
Fortunately for FEMA, a number of organizations have donated materials for distribution through the Clearinghouse. The Church Mutual Insurance Company, the National Fire Protection Association, the Grinnell Mutual Insurance Company, and the International Association of Arson Investigators have made significant contributions of camera-ready art and printed materials to support this Initiative. The National Church Arson Task Force updated the Church Threat Assessment Guide, and FEMA has reproduced and distributed this document through the Clearinghouse with great results. In fact, we completed a massive distribution of information in cooperation with the National Council of Churches last Fall.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to sending out arson prevention brochures and pamphlets, the Clearinghouse collects reports of exemplary practices and successful models in arson prevention. We also refer questions about rebuilding houses of worship, donating monies to churches, insurance availability, and, of course, ongoing investigations to the appropriate organizations and agencies. All of the partners of the Initiative noted earlier have aggressively promoted the Clearinghouse and the assistance available through it.
COORDINATION OF AND GRANTS
Within the Federal government, resources were redirected and programmed to support State and local arson prevention efforts as part of this Initiative. These resources were closely coordinated as part of the Initiative to maximize their benefit.
FEMA distributed $774,000 in training grants to all fifty States and the District of Columbia to enhance State and local arson investigation and prevention capabilities. This funding has afforded increased access to arson investigation training programs offered by our U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Academy, by allowing more regional and direct deliveries of these courses. By the end of this fiscal year, an estimated 2,500 students will receive arson investigation training through resident, regional, and direct deliveries. Additionally, this fiscal year, we will be providing a total of $635,000 to support arson prevention programs in each of the States, the District, and the territories.
There were 1,291 counties in 13 targeted Southern States eligible to apply for the $6 million announced by the President last June to enhance church surveillance and arson prevention efforts. The Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Department of Justice made grants of $4,600 to the 586 counties that applied. Of the approximately $2.7 million awarded, 13.5 percent has been used to hire part-time officers, 60.9 percent was used for law enforcement overtime, and 25.6 percent for other church arson prevention activities. The remaining funds will be used to provide 13 Statewide Church Arson Prevention Training Conferences in the targeted States, and four conferences outside the southern region, as well as provide technical assistance and support to State and local governments.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized the use of existing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Public Housing Assistance (PHA) funds to support arson and other crime prevention strategies in communities. These are funds that communities receive annually. PHA funds may be used for developing placebased crime prevention strategies. CDBG funds can also be used to help prevent crime or arson directed at churches or other vulnerable institutions.
The Department of Education awarded $1.8 million in a national grant competition under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program for hate crime prevention activities. Seven grants were awarded to public and private non-profit organizations, including educational institutions, in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. All of the projects are designed to have a broad impact within the State.
Efforts continue on the $2 million in grants awarded by FEMA under the Arson Prevention Act of 1994. Resulting projects on arson case management protocols, investigative training programs, domestic violence as a cause of arson, and juvenile firesetters should serve as models to share with States and communities nationwide. Participating in these demonstration grants are the States of Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and a consortium from New England that includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
If additional resources are made available to support State and local arson prevention efforts, these will be closely coordinated among the Federal agencies.
There are two key community-based efforts in arson prevention that should be highlighted. The first involves the community outreach of the Federal agencies, and the second involves a coalition building effort that is currently underway.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Perhaps the greatest example of the emphasis of the Initiative on grassroots action has been the efforts of AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers in six Southern States. Last year, 44 volunteers from the Corporation for National Service were assigned to 18 rural communities in which church arsons had occurred, and to 73 potentially vulnerable communities in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Volunteers performed 129 church threat assessments and organized over 70 community meetings on arson and fire prevention. Nearly 50 in-depth community arson vulnerability assessments were initiated. Many low cost improvements were made to church properties to make them less vulnerable to arson. Church arson watch groups were started in southwest Georgia and South Carolina. In many States, business partners pledged financial support for arson prevention efforts. Any donations of goods, services and cash were made to assist churches with arson and general fire prevention activities.
Over the last several months, Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Justice's U.S. Attorneys, Community Relations Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation participated in hundreds of community meetings on church arson prevention.
FEMA has recently launched a pilot project in four communities to build grassroots coalitions for arson prevention. Three of the pilot communities have been touched in some way by a house of worship fire. Macon, Georgia, Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina were selected based on an analysis of a number of factors including recent fire and arson activity, population size, community leadership, fire and law enforcement support, and access to media Outlets for public education. These communities have already started to come together and form grassroots partnerships for arson prevention. This past week we kicked off another pilot outside the South in Utica, New York. This community is experiencing a serious arson problem and has asked to participate in the pilot effort. I plan to participate with the Governors and local leadership in the launching of all of these coalitions nationally in April and May.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These pilot communities will serve as prevention models for the nation. The lessons they learn coming together to combat arson will assist other communities across the country. The concept of forming coalitions to address local problems is not a new one. However, it is new in arson prevention, and FEMA, the other Federal agencies, and the communities are learning a great deal from the experience.
Yet with all of our best efforts in arson prevention in communities throughout the nation--the Federal agents, the fire chiefs, sheriffs, church leaders, small business owners, and teachers--the work is still not done. Arson is a problem that just will not go away. The cooperation in evidence at the hearing today has been focused on a symptom of a much larger problem in this country. A problem that we must all remain committed to solve. FEMA is committed to the cause of arson prevention and to working to support communities in keeping America from burning. By the end of the fiscal year, the National Arson Prevention Initiative of FEMA will be merged into the United States Fire Administration's program.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to provide this testimony for the record. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other Members of the Committee might have.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 93 TO 145 HERE
Mr. HYDE. With that, I want to thank everyone. I want to tell my gentle friend from California that I'm embarrassed there aren't any of our members here for the second panel, but I'm proud that a lot of them were here for the first panel, when the gentlelady was otherwise occupied. So it kind of washes out, but people should have been here for both panels, as some of us were.
Page 150 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, with that----
Mr. CONYERS. Will the Chair yield?
Mr. HYDE. Certainly.
Mr. CONYERS. I'd like to thank him on behalf of the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, not just for today, but for the spirit in which he entered into this struggle over a year ago.
Mr. HYDE. Well, I think there's something beyond pathology, that anybody could burn a church--especially for racial reasons. At least the victims have great company: Jesus and the people whose church it is. So they share in the sad, sinful act of destruction, and you all have made a big contribution.
This record will be studied, and we're going to take seriously the insurance, the banking, and the other issues you raised, for that was the purpose of this hearing. Thank you.
The committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:02 p.m., the committee adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing
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INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 146 TO 158 HERE
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CHURCH ARSON PREVENTION ACT OF 1996
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
MARCH 19, 1997
Serial No. 4
Page 152 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrinted for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
SONNY BONO, California
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRISTOPHER B. CANNON, Utah
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JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
THOMAS E. MOONEY, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
March 19, 1997
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOPENING STATEMENT
Hyde, Hon. Henry J., a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois, and chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
Campbell, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown, general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Glenn, Patricia, National Coordinator, Church Burning Response Team, Community Relations Service, Department of Justice
Jackson, Rev. Earl W., Sr., national liaison, community development, Christian Coalition
Johnson, James E., Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, Department of the Treasury
Lawing, Jacquie M., General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, Department of Housing and Urban Development
McDougall, Harold, director, Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Myers, Elder Theodore, pastor, South Richland Bible Way Church, Gadsden, SC
Pinzler, Isabelle Katz, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Campbell, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown, general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA:
Followup concerning banks, Department of Housing and Urban Development, loans and insurance for burned churches
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement
Conyers, Hon. John, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan: Prepared statement
Federal Emergency Management Agency: Prepared statement
Glenn, Patricia, National Coordinator, Church Burning Response Team, Community Relations Service, Department of Justice: Prepared statement
Hyde, Hon. Henry J., a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois, and chairman, Committee on the Judiciary:
CRS report for Congress entitled, ''Incendiary Attacks on African-American Churches and Insurance Coverage Issues''
Department of Justice Church Burning Response Team's interim report
Department of the Treasury and Department of Justice National Church Arson Task Force's interim report for the President
Jackson, Rev. Earl W., Sr., national liaison, community development, Christian Coalition: Prepared statement
Jackson Lee, Hon. Sheila, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas
Johnson, James E., Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, Department of the Treasury and Isabelle Katz Pinzler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice:
Report prepared by FEMA entitled, ''Fire Stops With You''
Lawing, Jacquie M., General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, Department of Housing and Urban Development: Prepared statement
McDougall, Harold, director, Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
A report by the Center for Democratic Renewal entitled, ''The Fourth Wave: A Continuing Conspiracy To Burn Black Churches
Page 156 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement
Myers, Elder Theodore, pastor, South Richland Bible Way Church, Gadsden, SC: Prepared statement
Material submitted for the hearing.2
(Footnote 1 return)
There have been two acquittals. On November 21, 1996, a defendant was acquitted by reason of insanity for the June 10, 1996, arson at Our Most Sorrowful Savior Catholic Church in Soap Lake, Washington, and the June 14, 1996, arson at the Community Evangelical Church in Soap Lake, Washington. He was indefinitely committed to the Eastern State Hospital. In October 1996, a 13-year old defendant was acquitted of state arson charges stemming: from a fire that caused $500 in damage to the Slaughterneck United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware. The fire appeared to have been caused when a pile of leaves was set on fire behind the church. All of the other prosecutions have resulted in convictions or are still pending.
(Footnote 2 return)
Eighteen defendants have been charged with multiple arsons.