Churches in the St. Louis area are officially under attack.
On Thursday, the Shrine of St. Joseph’s became the seventh church in two weeks to have its door set on fire by an apparent arsonist. On Monday that number had been five, and all the churches were predominantly black. St. Joseph’s is Catholic church with a mostly white congregation, according to NBC News.
In a press conference Wednesday, St. Louis County Police Chief Sam Dotson said the investigation was ongoing and the department did not want to speculate on a motive. The city's police and fire Department are offering cash rewards totaling $9,000 to anyone with information on the fires.
The burnings appear to be the work of one arsonist, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “We believe that this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message,” read a statement released by the agency. “We believe this activity may be the result of stress experienced in the subject’s life, which may be noticeable to those around him or her.”
On Monday Fusion spoke with Pastor Rodrick Burton, whose church door was set on fire last Saturday. Burton said the damage to the stained glass door built in 1948 will be a massive undertaking to replace. “We’re not rolling in cash,” he said about replacing the $5,000 door. “Our congregants are working-class, economically distressed moms, a lot of underemployed and unemployed.” Burton said the church will also need to purchase a security camera.
Fusion reached out to the St. Louis County Fire Department for an update on the story but did not hear back by time of publication.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.