Video: The Burning Churches

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updated 2/6/2006 11:29:19 AM ET 2006-02-06T16:29:19

Fire destroyed three Baptist churches and damaged two others just outside of Birmingham, Alabama.  Authorities suspect arson, but there are no charges yet.

Pastor David Hand and his wife Robin joined Chris Matthews on ‘Hardball’ to discuss, their church, the Old Union Baptist Church which was damaged by one of the fires last night but, fortunately, it was saved before it was destroyed.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’: You're standing in front of another Ashby Church which was completely destroyed, right?  Is there any hint as to what behind this stuff, all these churches getting torched last night? 

PASTOR DAVID HAND, OLD UNION BAPTIST CHURCH, RANDOLPH, ALABAMA:  No, sir, we don't really have any idea what the reasoning behind it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any issue within the Baptist affiliation, any issues that have caused a lot of anger or any reason why a person would not like the position taken by your churches? 

D. HAND:  Not that I'm aware of.  There's not many accounts of anger lashed out or anything that we know of. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, tell me how you heard about this thing, take me through it, Pastor. 

D. HAND:  Well, Ashby, of course, was on fire before our church was, and one of the ladies from the church called one of our deacons at our church and they went out to see if they might have set a fire in our church.  And, of course, two of them arrived there and both of them found the fire, went in and used the fire extinguisher and put the fires out. 

MATTHEWS:  What made the person at the Ashby Church think that it might be a series of burnings, not just one church? 

D. HAND:  Well, we had kind of heard already about another church that was a little bit further away from us, when the firefighters come here, I think that they already knew about another church in our county.  So they kind of put it together, and just called for precautionary purposes. 

MATTHEWS:  Robin, what's your reaction to this? 

ROBIN HAND, CHURCH BURNED IN ARSON:  It's very sad.  I'm very sad.  All of these churches are in a very historical part of the county, and not only are they very tender to the hearts of the people in the community, but they're historical and just this community is just very close. 

All of the churches have a good relationship with each other and everybody just seems to be so kind and outreaching to each other.  And it's very sad, yet it's a time that the people in the church can reach out and maybe, you know, help one another and grow closer. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you Pastor Hand, let me ask you about the relationship among these churches.  Your church is the Old Union, you're standing at the Ashby.  How many of the churches have a connection among themselves in terms of your congregations? 

D. HAND:  I would say probably within a five mile radius, most of the most of the people are somehow connected whether they be cousins—some kind of relationship, family. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And when was it your deacon who got there first?  Who got to your church first? 

D. HAND:  Both our deacons arrived at the same time. 

R. HAND:  Alvin Lolly and Joe Killman (ph).

MATTHEWS:  And what did they find was going on when they got there? 

D. HAND:  Well, they was two flower pots in the sanctuary.  One was on our remembrance table in front of the pulpit.  It was on fire, and then there was another one set over to the side up under one of the flags, and it was on fire also, the flag also was. 

MATTHEWS:  And if they hadn't gotten there, you think the whole church would have burnt? 

D. HAND:  Oh, yes.  Five, 10 more minutes, it would have been on fire. 

MATTHEWS:  How did they put out the fire? 

D. HAND:  We had a fire extinguisher in the sanctuary and they put it out with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the fires that have gone down there.  Do you have a sense of how a person could get in to your church? 

D. HAND:  Well, on every church that we've had reports back on, they kicked the door in.  Most of them was a back door of the church where it was kind of concealed, and then they come in and did what they were going to do. 

MATTHEWS:  So they wanted these fires to go all the way.  They wanted to start them inside the church so they'd would do a lot of damage fast, they didn't just want to throw a torch at the church? 

D. HAND:  Yes.  That's correct. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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