Police Investigate Fire at Historic West Virginia Church as Arson

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West Virginia State Police are investigating a “suspicious” fire at the historic Saint Colman Catholic Church in Raleigh County as an arson.

The church, which was built in 1878, burned to the ground on Sunday. By the time firefighters arrived after receiving a call for a structure fire, the church was already destroyed but still smoldering, the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department said. 

The fire department said the fire is considered suspicious in nature. West Virginia State Police are investigating the fire as an arson. 

The fire department and the state police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saint Colman had not held services since it was declared an official historic site in 1984. 

It is the latest in a string of churches to face attack in recent years. 

Though authorities have not released information about potential suspects or motives, the fire came days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As the fight over abortion in the U.S. has grown more contentious, churches and pregnancy centers have increasingly been on the receiving end of violent attacks.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has tracked at least 142 incidents of vandalism at Catholic sites in the U.S. since May 2020. The incidents, which have occurred across 36 states and Washington, D.C., include arson; statues beheaded; statue limbs cut, smashed, and painted; gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned; and other destruction and vandalism.

The USCCB began tracking vandalism at Catholic sites after a pair of Catholic churches — San Gabriel Mission in California and Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Florida – were set on fire on July 11, 2020.

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