Man Earns Two Year Sentence After Threatening To Burn Down Black Church

A 63-year-old man has been sentenced to two years after threatening to burn down a Black church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

John Malcolm Bareswill called New Hope Baptist Church on June 7 and "made racially derogatory remarks, and threatened to set the church on fire,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. The call was placed days after one of the church's leaders took part in a prayer vigil for George Floyd. In court filings, Bareswill claimed that he was afraid the demonstrations would affect his package delivery business in Virginia Beach. However, it is unclear how the two entities are connected.

“Answering the exercise of constitutional freedoms with threats of violence — especially threats that tap into a long and shameful history of racially-motivated violence against houses of worship — requires swift and certain justice," U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger said.

“Bareswill’s threat terrified the adult Sunday school teachers who heard it and affected the entire church community. While this sentence cannot undo that harm, it sends an important message: Our community will not tolerate attempts to silence free speech or interfere with the free exercise of religion."

Bareswill's sentence comes just a week after a man in Louisiana was sentenced to 25 years in prison for burning down three Black churches in the area. Louisiana resident, Holden Matthews, will also have to pay a fine of $2.6 million to the three churches.

"The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant's warped act of hatred," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said.

Matthews will remain imprisoned until 2044. Meanwhile, Bareswill will be released in 2022 if he serves his full sentence.

Photo: Getty Images

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