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News :: Human Rights
Pro-Zionist Extremists Threaten Christian Churches in America
14 Nov 2004
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
Nov 13, 4:22 PM EST
Presbyterian Church advises members to take safety precautions
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has stepped up security at its headquarters and advised its churches to be on alert after receiving a letter threatening arson attacks on its churches because of its policies in the Middle East.
The handwritten letter was received Wednesday at the church's Louisville headquarters, Jerry L. Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian news service, said Saturday. It had no return address, but it was postmarked from Queens, NY, Van Marter said.
The letter threatened to set churches on fire while people were inside in retaliation for "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes," Van Marter said.
Church officials are taking the threat seriously and have contacted law enforcement authorities in Kentucky and New York, Van Marter said.
"This was just a straight out threat so they're inclined to take it a little more seriously than they would if it was somebody who obviously was every bit as interested in having a soap box to spout from," he said.
The FBI is investigating the letter with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local authorities, FBI spokesman David Beyer said.
Van Marter said the church has received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the church's General Assembly decided in June to begin the process of selective divestment from corporations supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
Although many letters have been angry, Van Marter said this was the first to threaten violence. Twice, the letter gave a Nov. 15 deadline for the church to reverse its Middle East policies, Van Marter said.
General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick alerted the church's 173 regional offices about the letter and included a list of precautions that churches could take, including using motion-activated lighting near doors and windows and developing an evacuation plan in case of fire.
"The overwhelming majority of these kinds of threats never come to fruition," Kirkpatrick said in his letter to regional offices. "At the same time, it is helpful to be aware and prepared."
The Presbyterian Church has 11,200 congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico, Van Marter said.
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