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Louisiana Church Burning Suspect Arrested, but Residents Are Still Spooked

The long history of hate in the area has contributed to the continuing fear.

Nothing is quite as horrific as violence on the basis of religion.

Sure, that’s a bit of a broad statement, but it needs to be.  Middle Eastern terrorism is likely the most prevalent example of this reality, with hundred or thousands of men and women proving that they are willing to take their own lives in order to cull the herd of non-believers.

Of course, there were the Christian Crusades of the 1100’s and 1200’s that too were violent ordeals inspired somehow by The Almighty.

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And then there are attacks against religion, yet not quite in the name of.  Such is the case in Louisiana, where a number of churches fell victim to arson.

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Now, with a suspect in custody for this reign of terror, you would think that the people of The Bayou State could rest easy.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

When Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning announced an arrest this week in the “suspicious” torching of three historically black churches, he sought to allay fears: “I will say the threat is now gone.”

But for some churchgoers and black residents in St. Landry Parish and across south central Louisiana, the fear remains that it could happen again.

The reason is simple.

Historic racial violence and bloodshed in Opelousas, where two of the churches are, and visible Ku Klux Klan activity in the surrounding area about 20 years ago remain painful reminders of intolerance and bigotry that some worry still lurks on the fringes.

“We are grateful that law enforcement worked very rapidly,” said John Milton, the religious affairs chairman of the NAACP chapter in Lafayette, about 20 miles from the churches. “But we believe that it’s much more deeper than this case. Because of the past history of black church burnings, the bottom line is we know there is a substantial connection between race and this event, and this is not an isolated incident.”

While race may have played a factor in previous instances of deep south church burnings, investigators have already mentioned a possible connection to a genre of music called “black metal”, whose roots include similar bouts of arson committed solely on the basis of religion.

As the story develops, and the case moves forward, we will continue to look for answers to these senseless acts.

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