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Burned Cross Sends Violent Message To Black Church (VIDEO)

Posted by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 4:18 PM
  • 2 Replies

The burned out remains of a cross and the smell of gasoline were a grim welcome for Pastor Vernon Hooks when he arrived at the little New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Tuesday

According to the police report, Clarksville Police arrived at the scene about 6:30 a.m. after one of the church members spotted the charred wooden crucifix propped against the church’s garage gate.

Hooks is very concerned the burned cross represents a violent message, because the congregation is largely African-American. He has been at New Hope for 34 years.

“I’d heard of this. 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.”


But the cross and what it represents to the mostly black church congregation caused heavy hearts.

The case is considered a “hate crime” since it meets all of the criteria, and police reported it to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the FBI. There are “no known hate groups in the area” according to a Clarksville Police Department spokesperson.

Burning a cross has historically been used to intimidate black people and the act is associated with the Ku Klux Klan. The image surprised Hooks, because he believed society had moved beyond such action.

“Anytime you see a cross burning, it sets us back.”

Sgt. Charles Gill of the Clarksville Police said there have been a number of vandalism cases in the area committed by juveniles but no other cross burnings. He said police are investigating the possibility that juveniles are responsible for the burned cross and may not understand the consequences that go along with a hate crime.

 “They may think they are being funny.”

 The police do not know if the guilty party(ies) were adults or juveniles.

“We’ve heard no chatter of hate groups in town, and we usually would hear about that. It was assigned to a detective, but we have no leads. We’ve got nothing.”

Hooks said that,

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

U.S. District Court in Nashville, which is an hour’s drive southeast of Clarksville, indicted the last of a three-man group in a cross-burning case last May on charges of,

Conspiracy against another’s rights, interference with housing rights and the use of fire to commit a felony. He and two other men are accused of burning a cross on a mixed-race couple’s driveway on April 30, 2012.

Tennessee reports an increase in statewide hate crimes. TBI reports hate crimes were up by 17 percent in 2013 as compared to 2012. That’s the highest number of hate crimes since 2008 and represents three straight years.

Hooks will not give up,

“That we will keep doing God’s will, that we won’t give up, we won’t let this be a setback for us as a congregation.”

Hooks met with a group of worried members of the congregation where the burned out cross still lays on the ground,

“Whoever did it, we forgive them. That’s the message, that we are a forgiving church and we’ll let the police do their job. It was devastating. I was somewhat hurt, but then I took time out to ask God to forgive whoever did this.”

 Hooks had the burned cross placed just steps away from the church’s doors to remind parishioners 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.

The New Hope Church has 150 to 200 active members. Other than scorch marks on the gate, there was no property damage. Hooks intends to leave the cross on property and speak to it in upcoming sermons.

And Hooks is puzzled.

“I just can’t get over it. What was the purpose of it?”

by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 4:18 PM
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Replies (1-2):
Arroree
by Ruby Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 4:34 PM

:(

littlemum41
by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 4:40 PM

 How sad. And I thought maybe people were becoming more civilized. Guess not. They're just as racist and undereducated as ever...

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