Since May 2020, US churches have increasingly become targets for vandals, a trend that has already continued into 2023. Now as the tracker provided by Catholic Vote approaches 300 incidents, several major news outlets have taken up the story, but it may take more than raised awareness of the problem to quell the crimes.
A recent report from the Family Research Council (FRC), titled Hostility Against Churches Is on the Rise in the United States, gave rise to a fresh round of reports from Fox News and the New York Post. The report, which went out on January 23, cited the number of churches attacked since May 2020 at 275, but this number had already risen to 278 as of January 24, suggesting that this alarming trend is ongoing and perhaps growing.
According to the Catholic Vote tracker, of the 278 attacks aimed at US churches, 121 of them have occurred since the US Supreme Court’s draft decision on Roe v Wade was leaked, in May 2022. This means that 43% of these church attacks have occurred in just the last 8 months. Considering the 157 previous attacks were spread out across 24 months, it is safe to say that the violent tendencies toward Christian places of worship is still trending upwards.
The FRC has tracked incidents a bit further back than Catholic Vote, from January 2018 to September 2022. In that time frame, they recorded 420 attacks on 397 churches across 45 states and Washington DC. It should be noted that the FRC’s tracker does not account for incidents that occurred between September 2022 and January 2023.
Breaking down the data, the FRC documented 342 occurrences of vandalism, 58 arson attacks or attempts, 12 gun-related incidents, 11 bomb threats, and 19 other incidents (assault, threats, interruption of worship services, etc.). Furthermore, 20 of these incidents (4.76 percent) fell into more than one category. California was found to be the state with the most incidents (51), followed by Texas (33) and New York (31).
Tony Perkins, FRC president, suggested that this destructive trend is a result of a diversion between Western culture and the biblical world view. He wrote:
“As the mainstream culture moves further and further away from a biblical worldview, I’ve witnessed the hostility to moral truth creep closer to our shores. The West, once the safe haven of free speech and religion, is turning cold to our religious foundations that have helped us thrive.”
Perkins went on to thank the Biden administration for acknowledging this crisis, but he suggested that the Department of Justice has much more work to do. According to Catholic Vote, only 25% of these cases have led to an arrest.