(NYT) Man Accused of Burning Louisiana Churches Is Charged With Hate Crimes

A Louisiana man accused of setting fire to three churches this past spring has been charged in an indictment with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

In an indictment that was returned this month but first unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department accused the man, Holden Matthews, of intentional damage to religious property — which the government classifies as a hate crime — and using fire to commit a felony.

Mr. Matthews, who was arrested in April, had already been charged with hate crimes by a local prosecutor, and the federal indictment came as little surprise. But federal prosecutors used the six-count indictment to suggest their theory of a motive for the fires: “the religious character” of the properties where they were set. They did not elaborate.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the area, said in a statement. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

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