CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. -- As the Catawba County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate a Monday morning church arson, the FBI announced hate crimes are on the rise across the country.
The FBI said hate crimes jumped nearly five percent in 2016, compared to 2015.
In North Carolina, the number of reports dropped by eight percent though hate crimes based on religion, gender and gender identity all rose in the state.
Investigators haven't yet determined whether an arson at Providence Baptist Church on Monday morning is a hate crime.
Deputies did discover the phrase, "anti-gay hate group," spray-painted on the property.
Parishioners believe the arsonist confused their church with another church in the county, Providence Road Baptist Church, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as being "anti-LGBT."
The sheriff wouldn't confirm nor deny whether the parishioner's theories were accurate, and he said the investigation is ongoing.
© 2017 WCNC.COM