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TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Baptist professor offers good reason for arsons

The two United Methodist Church bishops who oversee the denomination's churches in Alabama were wise to state what should be obvious to most people:

The alleged actions of the three young men, who have ties to Birmingham-Southern College, do not reflect the values and beliefs of United Methodist Christians.

That statement came from Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Birmingham-Southern is a Methodist-sponsored college. Russell Lee DeBusk Jr. and Benjamin Nathan Moseley were both 19-year-old theater students there at the time of the arsons at nine Baptist churches in West Alabama. The third suspect, 20-year-old Matthew Lee Cloyd, attended Birmingham-Southern before transferring to The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

North Alabama Conference Bishop William H. Willimon also reminded the public that his conference made monetary donations to the churches shortly after first reports of the fires.

Birmingham-Southern College is to Methodists what Samford University is to Baptists. Thus, in denouncing the arsons, the bishops also sought to protect the college from possible allegations of racism and anti-Baptist teachings.

Samford professor of religion Jonathan Bass may have stated Methodists' case even better:

"These guys are just so dumb they have no sense of place or history," he said.

Being dumb doesn't lessen the harm done or quell possible conspiracy theories, but it does offer a viable explanation of why arsonists burned the church buildings.

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