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Louisiana church arsonist given 25-year sentence

06 November 2020

Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall

A MAN convicted of burning down three historic Black churches in the United States has been given a 25-year prison sentence.

Holden Matthews, aged 23 (above), pleaded guilty to three counts under the Church Arson Prevention Act. Prosecutors said that he carried out the arson attacks to boost his reputation among the black-metal music scene, and he admitted copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s, in which 50 churches were attacked. Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal, and some of its proponents have been guilty of church burnings, vandalism, and killings.

The three churches — all Baptist churches in Louisiana — were razed to the ground in the attacks between 26 March and 4 April last year. St Mary Missionary Baptist Church, in Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both in Opelousas, all dated back to the post-Civil War reconstruction period.

The fires were carried out over ten days, and Mr Matthews posted videos of two of the churches burning on his Facebook account.

Judge Robert Summerhayes said on Monday that, while the arson attacks were not considered racially motivated, they evoked a long history of racist crimes for the affected church communities.

Mr Matthews has also been ordered to pay $2.7 million to the three churches.

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