The Volokh Conspiracy

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Religion and the Law

Apparent Neo-Nazi Pleads Guilty to Trying to Burn Down Church That Was Hosting Drag Queen Story Hour


From a Justice Department press release dated Oct. 24, but just posted on Westlaw a few days ago:

An Ohio man pleaded guilty yesterday to violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and to using fire and explosives to commit a felony, all in connection with his attempt to burn down a church because of the church's support for the LGBTQI+ community.

According to court documents, on March 25, Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, made Molotov cocktails and drove to the Community Church of Chesterland (CCC), in Chesterland, Ohio.

Angered by the church's plan to host two drag events the following weekend, Penny threw two Molotov cocktails at the church, hoping to burn it to the ground. Through Penny's guilty plea, he admitted to using force through fire and explosives, intending to obstruct CCC congregants in their enjoyment and expression of their religious beliefs….

From an FBI agent's affidavit:

Based on my training and experience White Lives Matter is a group with racist, pro-Nazi, and homophobic views. At a March 11, 2023, drag queen event in Wadsworth, Ohio, members of White Lives Matter "showed up at the event carrying swastika flags and shouting racial and homophobic slurs and 'Heil Hitler.'"

The Wadsworth Police Department identified PENNY as an individual who travelled to Wadsworth in advance of the March 11, 2023, drag queen story hour to distribute propaganda flyers representing White Lives Matter, Ohio's anti-drag queen views. PENNY then attended the drag queen story hour event on March 11, 2023, and was identified by Wadsworth Police as a protester with White Lives Matter….

The search of PENNY's residence revealed among other things, a hand-written manifesto that contained ideological statements, a Nazi flag, Nazi memorabilia, a White Lives Matter of Ohio t-shirt, a gas mask, multiple rolls of blue painters tape, and gas cans.