As Twitchy reported, the #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches hashtag has been going strong on Twitter as rumors spread on social media of an “epidemic” of black church burnings. The media has been falsely accused of ignoring the fires; there’s actually been quite a bit of coverage. Unfortunately, a great deal of that coverage has been less than objective, suggesting some sort of connection among the fires without providing any evidence.
Twitchy reported last night that a fire that gutted the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., on Tuesday was suspected to be the work of a lightning strike, and today the ATF has announced its investigation has confirmed that suspicion.
The Justice Department said that it would look into the recent church fires and today released a statement to quell any rumors.
The statement by Justice Department spokesperson Melanie Newman is reproduced here in full:
The federal law enforcement team of ATF, FBI, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are actively investigating several church fires across five states that have occurred over the past two weeks. Preliminary investigations indicate that two of the fires were started by natural causes and one was the result of an electrical fire. All of the fires remain under active investigation and federal law enforcement continues to work to determine the cause of all of the fires. To date the investigations have not revealed any potential links between the fires.
If in fact there is evidence to support hate crime charges in any one of these cases, the FBI, in coordination with the ATF and local authorities, will work closely with the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to bring those forward.
In other words, let the investigators do their jobs before making claims of arson.
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The FBI is also tweeting tonight, linking to the Justice Department’s statement.
Editor’s note: A typo in the headline has been corrected; Twitchy regrets the error.