96-H 9227

Passed in House

Jun. 12, 1996.


WHEREAS, More than 130 years ago, black and white Americans died in unspeakable numbers to uphold and establish the sacred principles that America should be a free, undivided nation. Even after that terrible conflict, die-hard racists refused to accept the verdict of arms and history and, through violent acts of terror and political intimidation, suppressed the rights of a people who had only just begun to taste the sweet fruits of liberty; and

WHEREAS, During the turbulent 1960's, African-Americans called for an end to "legal" and illegal intimidation and gained a measure of what had long ago been promised. The courage and yearning for freedom displayed by these civil rights advocates inspired a nation and the world. Yet, progress seems always to exact a steep price and, as before, that price included death and even the wanton destruction of places of worship; and

WHEREAS, Now, once again, that eerie spectre of violence against the churches of African-American citizens threatens to plunge the nation into yet another maelstrom of fear, mistrust and violence. The forces of evil advocating such wickedness must not be allowed to succeed; and

WHEREAS, A wave of fear and frustration has fallen over many communities in the South after approximately 30 acts of arson against African-American churches in the last 18 months. The terrible toll may be even greater. The Center for Democratic Renewal places the number of incendiary assaults at 46. The Center reports that the states suffering the most fires are South Carolina (26), Tennessee (11), Alabama (10), Louisiana (6) and Mississippi (6), and that there have been 28 fires this year alone, a pace of about one a week; and

WHEREAS, As a shocked nation attempts to access the terrible impact of these horrendous acts, a group of concerned Southern pastors and civil rights attorneys have met with senior Clinton administration officials and strongly urged them to become more aggressive in their attempts to solve the rash of fires which have menaced communities from Texas to Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Even as the National Council of Churches announced that it was beginning a campaign to raise $2 million to rebuild the destroyed churches, President Clinton vowed to mobilize federal resources to find the arsonists. He recently ordered scores of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to assist local police departments investigate the attacks in nine Southern states; and

WHEREAS, Let us all take heart form what President Clinton has said of these tragic events. "We need to come together as one America to rebuild our churches, restore hope, and show the forces of hatred that they cannot win." If adversity is indeed, a path to truth, may we all take this opportunity to look deeply into ourselves and grow stronger and closer as a nation. May the promise of liberty finally be realized. May this finally become one nation devoted to the safety and well-being of all of its citizens; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby memorializes Attorney General Janet Reno to utilize all of the law enforcement resources of the federal government to put an end to the burning of African-American churches in the South; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he hereby is authorized and directed to transmit a duly certified copy of this resolution to United States Attorney General Janet Reno.

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