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By: Selena Robinson, Freelance Journalist for WorldNewsVine
Washington, D.C. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Friday that two religious hate crime incidents in Tennessee and Alabama were moving to resolution. In Mobile, Alabama, Christian Rodney Ice pled guilty to covering a Jewish synagogue with anti-Semitic messages in support of Hitler. The 19-year-old, who was charged with violating the Church Arson Act, is facing up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. He will be sentenced on September 23.
Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the FBI, said in a statement, “This case should send a clear message to others who would carry out similar criminal acts that they will be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.” Kenyen R. Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama added that the government would “continue to use all the tools at its disposal to stamp out hate crimes and instances of bigotry”.
In an unrelated case in Tennessee, Eric Ian Baker was sentenced to 183 months in prison for setting fire to the Islamic Center in the city of Columbia. According to an FBI press released, Baker admitted to the crime and added that he committed the act because of “the religious character of the property”. During the fire, he also painted swastikas and the phrase “White Power” on the building.
Underscoring the severity of religious intolerance, Assistant A.G. Perez said that “the right to worship without fear of this kind of violent interference is among our most fundamental civil rights. We will aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to intimidate or injure any congregation because of what they believe, how they worship, or who they are.”
If current trends are any proof, these incidents will continue to occur. In 2009, the FBI reported that the number of hate crimes against religious groups had increased 9% from 2008.