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Musician burns churches to help his career

by Heather Preston

A musician in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to setting three African-American churches on fire in a bid to "raise his profile" in the black metal community.

On Monday, Holden Matthews admitted to intentionally damaging religious property after he burned a number of Baptist churches in the Opelousas area over a 10 day period last year.

The court heard that Matthews was influenced by similar crimes that took place in Norway in the 1990s, which saw 50 churches attacked by arsonists in the name of black metal music.

Black metal is an extreme sub-genre of heavy metal music that has sparked controversy due to its associations to Satanism and paganism. The genre has also been linked to neo-Nazi ideals.  

Following the incident, the 22 year old told prosecutors he had posted images and video footage of his arsons on Facebook "in an effort to promote himself in the black metal community".

Matthews targeted St Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on 26th March 2019, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on 2nd April and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on 4th April.

Federal Prosecutors said the "religious character" of the buildings was a motive for Matthew's attacks but did not comment on whether there was a racial element to the attacks. 

Assistant attorney general Eric Dreiband said: "His disgraceful conduct violated the civil rights of the church's parishioners and harmed their communities." 

Following his sentencing on 22nd May, Matthews faces up to 70 years in prison.

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