Alaska governor Sarah Palin said an arson attack on her home church could have been linked to "undeserved negative attention" from her failed Republican vice-presidential campaign.
Damage to the Wasilla Bible Church, 40 miles north of Anchorage, was estimated at $1m (£670,000), authorities said yesterday.
No one was injured in Friday night's fire, which happened while a handful of people, including two children, were inside, said Fire Chief James Steele. The fire started at the entrance of the church and moved inward as a small group of women were working on crafts, he said. The group was alerted by a fire alarm. Outside temperatures dipped to minus 20C as firefighters battled the blaze.
The blaze was being investigated as an arson, he said, adding that he did not know of any recent threats to the church. The authorities did not know whether Mrs Palin's connection to the church was relevant to the fire, Mr Steele said. "It's hard to say at this point. Everything is just speculation. We have no information on intent or motive."Pastor Larry Kroon would not say whether the church had received any threats. "There are so many variables," he said. "I don't want to comment in that direction."
Mrs Palin, who was not at the church at the time of the fire, visited yesterday. Her spokesman, Bill McAllister, said in a statement that she told an assistant pastor she was sorry if the fire was connected to the "undeserved negative attention" the church had received since she became the US vice-presidential candidate on 29 August.
"Whatever the motives of the arsonist, the Governor has faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good," Mr McAllister said.
The 1,000-member evangelical church was the subject of intense scrutiny after Mrs Palin was named as Senator John McCain's running mate.
Early in Mrs Palin's campaign, the church was criticised for promoting – in a Sunday bulletin – a Focus On The Family "Love Won Out Conference" in Anchorage.
The conference promised to "help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome".Reuse content