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Published On: Thu, Jul 24th, 2014

Cross burned at Tennessee church, police say it was a ‘hate crime’

A burned cross was found Tuesday morning at a Baptist church in Tennessee after a church member saw the fire and contacted police.

Sgt. Charles Gill, of the Clarksville Police Department, said the incident was a hate crime. There are no leads on the case, he said.

Cross burning in Tennessee? photo/screenshot of video coverage

Cross burning in Tennessee? photo/screenshot of video coverage

“Whoever did it, we forgive them,” Pastor Vernon Hooks said Tuesday afternoon as he gathered with church members outside the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “That’s the message, that we are a forgiving church and we’ll let the police do their job.”

Authorities say there was no other property damage other than the cross and the marks on the gate where the fire left scorched markings. Pastor Hooks confirmed that neither he nor the church had received hateful messages, threats or knew anyone who wanted to do harm to New Hope.

“I’ve been hear 34 years and this never happened,” the Pastor said. “I’d heard of this,” he said. “I’ve seen it perhaps at other churches, other buildings, but not in a million years did I think this would happen to New Hope because we are a close community.”

Gill said police are investigating the possibility that juveniles are responsible and may not understand the consequences that go along with a hate crime. There have been several other incidents of vandalism in the area, but nothing involving a cross burning.

“We’ve heard no chatter of hate groups in town, and we usually would hear about that,” Gill said.

The church has 150 to 200 active members. On Wednesday, they held a prayer meeting and, on Sunday, an associate pastor will preach about forgiveness, Hooks said.

The Pastor then said the cross does not belong to the church so it must have been brought to the property by the suspect(s).

Hooks had the burnt cross was placed just steps away from the church’s doors, so parishioners will be reminded of the congregation’s mission.

“We will keep doing God’s will. We won’t give up we won’t let this be a set back for us as a congregation.”

Anyone with information can call the Crime Stoppers TIPS line at 645-TIPS. Information could lead to a reward of up to $1,000, he said.

Photo: Screenshot of video coverage – http://thegrio.com/2014/07/23/cross-burning-historically-black-church-shocks-community/

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