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Church Gets Fire Threat In the Mail

Associated Press
Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page A24

LOUISVILLE, Nov. 13 -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has stepped up security at its headquarters and advised its churches to be on alert after receiving a letter threatening arson attacks because of its policies in the Middle East.

The handwritten letter, received Wednesday at the church's headquarters here, threatened to set churches afire while people were inside in retaliation for "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes," Jerry L. Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian news service, said Saturday.

The letter had no return address, but it was postmarked from Queens, N.Y., Van Marter said. The letter gave a Nov. 15 deadline for the church to reverse its Middle East policies, he said.

Church officials are taking the threat seriously and have contacted law enforcement authorities in Kentucky and New York, Van Marter said.

The FBI is investigating the letter with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local authorities, FBI spokesman David Beyer said.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has 11,200 congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico and 2.4 million members.

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