Local News

Church Arson Becomes Online Music Video

Posted February 1, 2007 3:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2007 9:05 p.m. EST

— Video of an area church covered in flames has become a music video on the YouTube Web site, prompting an outcry from congregation members and a federal investigation.

Two Jan. 13 fires destroyed Memorial Baptist Church and damaged Unity Free Will Baptist Church, both in Greenville. Authorities have determined both fires were deliberately set, but they haven't yet charged anyone with either arson.

"I forgive the person or persons who did this. We have no clue who they are," said Rick Bailey, associate pastor of Memorial Baptist.

But as Bailey and other church members try to recover from the fire, they were jolted again this week by another disturbing image. Someone posted home video of the Memorial Baptist fire on YouTube and made it into a music video set to Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire."

"It bothers me that someone would find the need to make light of something like this," Bailey said. "It makes we wonder how that person would feel if someone set fire to their house and videotaped it set it to music and posted for everyone to see."

A task force of local and federal investigators is working to find out who posted the video and why. Whoever posted the video likely won't face any charges, unless he or she is tied to the arson, authorities said.

Some people have already weighed in on YouTube with online comments.

"What a sad day for Greenville. I hope whoever is responsible for this will be punished accordingly," one comment said.

A $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest in the arson cases.

Memorial Baptist members are trying to salvage parts of the church building and move forward.

"We see this as an opportunity to re-engage with the community on a different level. It has brought this community together," Bailey said.