Project 21 Letter to the Congress of the United States on Church Burnings – 2/96

February 9, 1996

Dear Member of Congress:

As Chairman of the African-American leadership group Project 21, I am writing to let you know about a disturbing trend: the burning of black churches. Since January 1995, 17 churches in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have been damaged by arsonists. I am sending you a copy of a USA Today article describing the alarming rate at which black churches have been set ablaze.

I am asking you to speak out as a public servant against this threat to the religious rights of millions of Americans. These burnings are bringing back disturbing memories for many black Americans like myself as the evidence indicates this lawlessness may be racially motivated. The perpetrators of these crimes must be found and stopped, and all Americans should join in a condemnation of these crimes.

I know that you have been working courageously to change the way things are done in this country. But this is the perfect opportunity for Republicans in both houses of Congress to show that they know that serving the American people involves more than just passing some new legislation. As public servants and leaders, you have the authority and obligation to speak out against these injustices.

The emphasis on a return to traditional values by many Republicans was no doubt a primary reason for the party’s success in 1994. By expressing your disgust with these recent acts of violence in floor speeches and through other forms of public communication, you can stand up for those values. As many of you know, churches have always played a substantial role in the teaching of traditional values. We can not allow the physical structures at which those values are taught be destroyed.

This is a perfect opportunity for you to show that as you are bogged down in numerous public policy battles that you are not isolated from the everyday problems of ordinary Americans. Indeed, if you speak out forcefully about these recent atrocities, you will be demonstrating that you are more in tune with them than ever before. In the past, the press has portrayed Republicans as uncaring of minorities and their concerns. This is an opportunity for you to prove them wrong once again.


Edmund Peterson
Chairman, Project 21

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