Holden Matthews, a 23-year-old man who burned down three historically Black churches in Louisiana, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay $2.6 million for his crimes, the Associated Press reports.
Matthews, who reportedly got involved in "black metal," which authorities call an "extreme" subgenre of medal, was initially investigated by the FBI and ATF because it was believed that the arsons were hate crimes. According to the AP, however, Matthews burned three churches down to further his image as a black metal artist.
The churches, Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, all received portions of the 2.6 million dollars in compensation he was ordered to pay. The churches received $1.1 million, $970,213.30, and $590,246, respectively. Mathews burned down the three churches within 10 days from the tail end of March to the early days of April in 2019.
It is not suspected that racism was a motive for the burnings. However, Matthews stated that he figured the burnings would have taken the churches back to a dark time of racial segregation. The judge asked the Bureau of Prisons to put him in a prison near his family and give him substance abuse and mental health treatment, according to local outlet KATC-TV.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division was the main prosecutor in the suit against Matthews, who was convicted on both federal and state arson crimes. According to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division, "these churches trace their origins to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and, for generations, were a place for predominantly African American Christians to gather, pray, worship, and celebrate their faith. The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant’s warped act of hatred. I extend my sympathy to the victims of this defendant’s arson spree, the congregants of St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. The Justice Department will continue vigorously to protect their right to worship and live in peace."
Assistant United States Attorney J. Luke Walker, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, and Trial Attorney Risa Berkower of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division were the main lawyers representing the churches.
Matthews states he is deeply sorry and recovered his faith in the Lord again, according to The Acadiana Advocate.
Photo courtesy: ©Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.