Donations for Black Churches Destroyed by Arson Soar After Notre Dame Fire

A crowdfunding campaign for three historically black churches in Louisiana recently destroyed by arson exceeded its target of $1.8 million following the April 15 fire at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Although the campaign was created on April 10, it was only after journalist Yashar Ali highlighted the Louisiana churches’ fundraiser on April 16 — in the wake of the Notre Dame fire — that donations began to pour in. 

Ali’s message was amplified by appeals for support from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, retired football player Benjamin Watson and CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

As Care2’s Llowell Williams wrote here, all three churches that burned were in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish. St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre was torched on March 26, the nearby Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas burned on April 2, and April 4 saw a third blaze at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas.

The man accused of setting these fires is Holden Matthews, a white man and the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff. Matthews was arrested on April 10, and he has been charged with arson and hate crimes. Local authorities said the suspect “demonstrated the characteristics of a pathological fire setter.”

Matthews is likely to go on trial in September, and he may face more federal charges.

The GoFundMe fundraiser was posted by the Seventh District Baptist Association, a group of 54 churches in southwest Louisiana — including the three that burned. The organization is supported by Governor John Bel Edwards.

The Association wrote that the money raised will be distributed equally to the three churches, “for not only rebuilding their sanctuaries, but for the purchase of all necessities lost in the fires, including pews, sound system, musical instruments.”

While the Louisiana GoFundMe has raised over $2 million, donors have pledged over $1 billion for the reconstruction of Notre Dame in Paris.

But, as The Washington Post points out, there are many reasons why the rich choose to donate large sums. Aside from making them look good, these billionaire donors may be in it for the huge tax break. There also may be strings attached, meaning that they will have a say in how Notre Dame is rebuilt, and there could be a political payoff, as they will have French President Macron’s ear.

And with Macron known as the “President of the Rich,” in a country being torn apart by protests over inequality, some major questions remain.

Phillipe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, explains: “If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency.”

Meanwhile, the French Catholic church has assets of at least 700 million euros a year, or $787 million.

Here in the United States, Apollo Gonzales posted a particularly compelling tweet on April 16:

How wonderful that this situation has now turned around and Gonzales has been proven wrong.  Americans are now responding to the total destruction of three historically black churches in Louisiana. We aren’t big donors, and we don’t need to have our names splashed across the headlines.

There is hope for humanity.

Photo Credit: Karl Fredrickson/Unsplash


Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric9 days ago

tks for sharing

Martha P
Martha P10 days ago


Jan S
Jan S16 days ago

Thanks for posting

Hannah A
Hannah A18 days ago

thanks for the update

heather g
heather g25 days ago

Thank you for this article and informing us that the perpetrator has been apprehended.

Freya H
Freya H27 days ago

The fact that so many wealthy people are donating huge sums to restore Notre Dame while millions are starving does smack of hypocrisy. I'm all for restoring Notre Dame because of its historical and cultural importance, but where are those moneybags when the downtrodden need help? Why no nine-digit pledges to fight world hunger or provide medical care for refugees?

Sam E M
Sam E M27 days ago

I never understood why a donation should allow for a tax refund; since that equates to tax payers paying the amount refunded to the donor (?). People should just give whatever they can afford in the first place.

Chad Anderson
Chad A27 days ago

Thank you.

Janis K
Janis K28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Dot A
Dot A28 days ago

You can please some of the people some of the time. But, as we read the diverse responses it is clear once again, 'that you can never please all of the people all of the time." Being grateful is an attribute. Being envious is a weakness. Encouraging goodwill is an act of loving.