What is it about the existence of churches that tends to set disgruntled white men off on a burning spree?
A Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to civil rights violations for setting fire to four separate churches in June 2019. All of the arsons were committed within a day of each other with the exception of the first one, which took place a week prior to the rest.
The U.S. Department of Justice said that 28-year-old Alan Douglas Fox of Nashville is facing up to 20 years in prison for each fire he set as well as a five-year sentence for a firearms violation for carrying and using a firearm during one of the arsons.
Fox’s rampage started on June 17, 2019, when he set fire to Crievewood United Methodist Church. Just over a week later, on June 25, of that year, he set Crievewood Baptist Church and Saint Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church on fire. His arson spree ended the next day, on June 26, when he burned Priest Lake Community Baptist Church.
According to the DOJ, Fox admitted to setting each fire because he just really hates the existence of religion.
Fox should have known that a bible belt state like Tennessee is not a state where the burning of churches would be taken lightly. (Unless they were Black churches—which they weren’t—in which case even in 2021 this case probably could have gone either way.)
In fact, the state took the series of arsons so seriously that the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and the Nashville Fire Department were all involved in investigating the case.
“The defendant in this case set fire to four Christian churches, causing fear and anguish to church members and their denominations,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The freedom to practice the religion we choose, without discrimination or danger, is a fundamental civil right in our nation and a hallmark of our democracy. The Justice Department will continue to prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those who target and harm houses of worship because of bigotry and prejudice.”
Fox’s sentencing is set to begin on Feb. 11, 2022.