Clarksville police are investigating an arson case after a wooden crucifix was found burned outside a local church.
Pastor Vernon Hooks of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church received a phone call from church members around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday after one of them spotted the burnt cross leaning up against the church’s garage gate as they were driving to work.
Hooks, who has been pastor at the predominately black church for 34 years, said they dealt with thieves burglarizing the church several years ago but this is a first.
“Not in a million years I would think this would happen to New Hope because we are a close community,” said Hooks.
Cross burning is a practice widely associated with the Ku Klux Klan and historically has been used as a form of intimidation.
Pastor Hooks told News 2 cross burning is a disturbing image he thought society was well beyond.
“Anytime you see a cross burning, it sets us back,” he said.
SLIDESHOW: Cross burned on church’s property
A spokesperson for the Clarksville Police Department said there are no known hate groups in the area and they are unsure who committed the early morning hate crime.
Pastor Hooks is also dumbfounded.
He said the cross does not belong to the church so it must have been brought to the property by the suspect(s).
Hooks had the burnt cross was placed just steps away from the church’s doors, so parishioners will be reminded of the congregation’s mission.
“We will keep doing God’s will. We won’t give up we won’t let this be a set back for us as a congregation.”
Anyone with information on the crime is urged to call Clarksville police or Crime Stoppers at 931-645-TIPS.