By Will Hall, Message Editor
OPELOUSAS (LBM) – The suspect in the burning of three historically black Baptist churches claimed members were “brainwashed people,” according to CNN.
Holden Matthews, 21, also reportedly commented via Facebook that he “can’t stand all these Baptists around here” and accused them of “trying to find happiness in a religion that was forced on their ancestors just as it was on mine,” lamenting that “more blacks” did not pursue “ancient beliefs of pre Christian Africa.”
Police arrested Matthews, April 11, for setting fire to the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, March 26, as well as the Greater Union Baptist Church, April 2, and the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, April 4, both in Opelousas. The congregations have been ministering in their respective communities for more than 100 years each.
On social media Matthews described himself as “a metal fan to the bone,” an apparent reference to black metal music, a genre connected with musician Varg Vikernes, who was convicted for the 1992 burning of three churches in Norway. CNN described Matthews’ belief system as “paganism” with interests in Norse mythology.
Matthews faces three state counts of arson as well as three state counts of a hate crime, a charge in Louisiana to punish violence committed because of the victim’s race, age, gender and religion.
Generous donations have poured in from around the state and the country to help rebuild the three churches, each affiliated with the National Baptist Convention. In just a week, 35,000 individuals donated more than $1.9 million via GoFundMe.
The Louisiana Baptist Convention missions team is connecting with the pastors of the three burned churches to find out what needs are still not met.
Likewise, four LBC congregations (St. James Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Bayou Church, all in Lafayette; and, the First Baptist Church, Opelousas) as well as two LBC associations (Evangeline Baptist Association, Acadia Baptist Association) are offering local support.