COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Pickerington man on Wednesday admitted to setting ablaze a Baltimore, Ohio church because of its “religious character.”

Benjamin D. Ruckel, 25, pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the Church Arson Prevention Act when he intentionally set fire to Mount Zion Church in November 2021, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker.

“Every resident in the Southern District of Ohio should be free to worship without any criminal acts occurring against them or the place in which they come together to do so,” Parker said in a statement.

Court documents indicate that Ruckel broke the church’s windows and spread accelerant before the church lit up in flames, causing extensive damage, Parker said.

Under the Church Arson Prevention Act, committing arson as a religious hate crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Ruckel’s sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.