BONNERS FERRY, Idaho (AP) — Federal investigators are trying to determine whether the arson fire that destroyed a Catholic church in Idaho was driven by religious or racial bias.
The Spokesman-Review reports (http://bit.ly/1VQJNMK ) that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the Thursday fire at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Bonners Ferry.
St. Ann's parish priest is from Colombia and some of the parishioners are Hispanic. The church was also vandalized in February and investigators are looking into whether the crimes are connected.
The FBI says the crime can be prosecuted under the Church Arson Prevention Act if it was motivated in whole or part by an offender's bias against a race or religion. That would make the arson a federal crime that carries a prison term of 20 years.