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Suspects Sought in Alabama Church Burnings

Hazel White, 73, is a lifetime member of Galilee Baptist Church. The small church in Panola, Ala., burned to the ground in a suspected arson fire. All that's left is the twisted iron railing and front steps.
Kathy Lohr, NPR
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Hazel White, 73, is a lifetime member of Galilee Baptist Church. The small church in Panola, Ala., burned to the ground in a suspected arson fire. All that's left is the twisted iron railing and front steps.
Galilee Baptist Church Pastor Bob Little says whoever burned the church down had to know where to find it. Generations of the faithful are buried in the church's graveyard.
Kathy Lohr, NPR /
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Galilee Baptist Church Pastor Bob Little says whoever burned the church down had to know where to find it. Generations of the faithful are buried in the church's graveyard.

Federal and state investigators in Alabama are looking for suspects in a series of fires that have burned Baptist churches in rural areas of the state in the past two weeks. Many congregations are planning to rebuild, and vow not to be intimidated.

At least 10 rural churches have been struck by fire. This past week, the Galilee Baptist Church in Panloa, Ala., burned to the ground. The area is so remote that investigators believe the perpetrators must have known the church's location and targeted it.

In Gainesville, Ala., a fire started inside the front pews of Spring Valley Baptist Church but the building remains standing. The ceiling is blackened and the air reeks.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) surveyed the damage at Spring Valley Baptist Church and found many congregants determined to rebuild.

"If you think you've intimidated somebody, you hadn't intimidated anybody," he says. "If you think you've got a lot of folks scared in west Alabama, you've also got a lot of folks praying in west Alabama."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kathy Lohr
Whether covering the manhunt and eventual capture of Eric Robert Rudolph in the mountains of North Carolina, the remnants of the Oklahoma City federal building with its twisted metal frame and shattered glass, flood-ravaged Midwestern communities, or the terrorist bombings across the country, including the blast that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, correspondent Kathy Lohr has been at the heart of stories all across the nation.