If you believe anti-Christian attacks have skyrocketed over the last decade, you’re right. Attacks on churches have increased 800% in less than six years — and more than doubled over the last year, according to a new report released today by Family Research Council. Documented acts of anti-church hostility include attempted bombings, shootings, satanic vandalism, and numerous attacks based on anti-Christian bias due to support for abortion or extreme transgender ideology. Some constituted unpunished election interference.
The report identified 915 acts of hostility against churches between January 2018 and November 2023, including:
- 709 acts of vandalism
- 135 completed or attempted arsons
- 32 bomb threats
- 22 gun-related incidents
- 61 other incidents, including assault, threats, and interruption of worship services.
These acts of “religious intimidation” send the message “that churches are not wanted in the community or respected in general,” Arielle Del Turco, who authored the report, told The Washington Stand. “Regardless of the motivations of these crimes, everyone should treat churches and all houses of worship with respect and affirm the importance of religious freedom for all Americans.”
The report shows that church attacks, and acts of violence, continued to explode in 2023. During the first 11 months of last year, researchers verified at least 436 acts of hostility against U.S. churches — more than double the number of attacks in all of 2022, including:
- 315 acts of vandalism
- 75 completed or attempted arsons
- 20 bomb threats
- 10 gun-related incidents
- 12 instances of satanic graffiti
- 59 churches faced repeated acts of hostility
These statistics likely understate the extent of the problem, because “[m]any acts of hostility against churches are likely not reported to authorities and/or are not featured in the news or other online sources from which we collected data,” says the report. “[T]he number of acts of hostility is undoubtedly much higher.”
Acts of anti-church hostility blanketed the country in 2023, taking place in 48 states and Washington, D.C. California experienced the largest number of incidents, with 91. Texas churches endured 62 incidents; New York had 58; and Florida had 47.
“The rise in hostility we identified in our December 2022 report has neither slowed nor plateaued; rather, it has accelerated,” says the new report. “The rise in crimes against churches is taking place in a context in which American culture appears increasingly hostile to Christianity. Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property may be symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect.”
The raw numbers paint a grim picture of escalating anti-Christian action boiling over into bigoted action. The report totals:
- 50 acts of hostility against churches in 2018
- 83 in 2019
- 55 in 2020
- 96 in 2021
- 195 in 2022
- 436 in 2023
“If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked,” the last such report accurately predicted last April.
Although federal civil rights laws explicitly ban religious discrimination, and hundreds of assailants targeted houses of worship, only “a minority were under investigation as hate crimes,” according to the 157-page analysis, titled “Hostility Against Churches Is on the Rise in the United States.”
Deadly Shootings, Bomb Threats, and Political Ideology
The report’s longest section is a robust 97 pages of church attacks, verified through 50 pages of endnotes, which show bomb threats, shootings, politically motivated attacks, and explicit Satanism.
Transgender violence: Perhaps the most shocking act of anti-Christian bias took place last March 27, when transgender-identifying Audrey Hale opened fire at the Nashville Covenant School, operated by the Covenant Presbyterian Church, killing six people, including three young students. Hale, who frequently identified as a male named “Aiden,” told a friend she had left a manifesto and “plenty of evidence behind” attesting to her motive. Yet, aside from a few pages pried out of police hands by conservative commentator Steven Crowder, Hale’s manifesto remains hidden.
The assault is but one example of 2023’s transgender-related anti-church violence. Last January 3, a man named Cameron Storer who identifies as female set fire to Portland Korean Church, an historic, 117-year-old vacant building. Storer claimed that voices in his head threatened to “mutilate” him unless he set the church ablaze.
Transgender activist-vandals painted the message “TRANS PWR” on St. Joseph Catholic Church in Louisville, on March 3. The attack came one day after the Kentucky legislature overrode the veto of Governor Andy Beshear (D) to enact a law protecting children from transgender surgeries. Also in March, vandals cut down crosses in the cemetery of the Friendship United Methodist Church in Newton, North Carolina, shortly after it disaffiliated with the United Methodist denomination over the denomination’s liberalizing views on LGBT issues. On June 16, vandals spray-painted the words “Stay gay, stay hard, Love is 4 everyone” on Grace Community Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
The report does not include incidents that took place in 2024, such as Genesse Moreno — an ex-Muslim convert to Judaism who is not a U.S. citizen and whom neighbors say has identified as “transgender” — opening fire in Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston.
Bombings, shootings, and Molotov cocktails: Christian churches faced potential mass casualties from explosions or shootings in 2023. Someone set a five-gallon drum of gasoline ablaze inside Word of God Ministries in Shreveport last January, but fire personnel’s quick response limited the damage.
Last October 29, a man purloined Holy Communion from Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in San Fransisco. “After being confronted about it, the man punched the person who confronted him and ran out. Police pursued the man, who reportedly ‘set off a pipe bomb’ and ignited a ‘Molotov cocktail’ to deter police,” notes the report. Similarly, on July 17, a man threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of Living Stones Church in Reno, Nevada. In March, four people fired 50 rounds into Clearview Mennonite Church of Versailles, Missouri.
While some acts of violence seemed senseless, others carried a pointed political message. Many church assaults stemmed from the Christian church’s 2,000-year-old teaching that life begins at fertilization/conception, and abortion is murder.
Pro-abortion hostility: The number of church assaults peaked in June, the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. An arsonist set the Incarnation Roman Catholic Church in Orlando ablaze on the pro-life ruling’s first anniversary, although investigators could not determine if the date figured into the blaze.
But pro-abortion attacks on Christian churches continued unabated all year long. On January 18, just before the March for Life, someone vandalized the monument to the unborn at St. Rosalia Roman Catholic Church in Pittsburgh. Eight days later, someone desecrated a pro-life banner inside a Florida Catholic parish with the phrase “Women’s body, women’s choice.” Months later, on September 9, someone splattered red paint on a pro-life sign at the Second Baptist Church in Palermo, Maine, leaving behind two messages: “Abortion is our human right” and “Queer love 4 eva.” Vandals destroyed a pro-life display of 1,000 wooden crosses, representing unborn lives snuffed out by abortion, at a display in Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Elmhurst, Illinois.
Acts of Anti-Christian Election Interference
Several of Ohio’s 24 reported church attacks involved the state’s Issue 1 campaign. The controversial constitutional amendment created a “right” for people of all ages to access abortion at essentially any point in pregnancy. Many constituted acts of election interference. “In October, someone pulled the ‘Vote No’ sign at Cincinnati’s St. Monica-St. George Church out of the ground and threw it in a dumpster,” notes the report. “At St. Bartholomew Church, also in Cincinnati, between six and eight ‘Vote No’ yard signs were removed from the church’s property and replaced with ‘Vote Yes’ signs.” Additional acts of pro-abortion election interference occurred at:
- Cincinnati’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, Cincinnati, Ohio, where vandals stole or vandalized anti-Issue 1 signs one month before the election.
- At St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in the university town of Oxford, home of (Miami University), a pro-life sign opposing Issue 1 “was cut in half, and many other similar church signs were vandalized or stolen.”
- At the Church of the Incarnation in Centerville, “someone spray-painted the church’s front door window to cover up a sign opposing Ohio Issue 1.”
Issue 1 passed handily last November.
“Americans appear increasingly comfortable lashing out against church buildings, pointing to a larger societal problem of marginalizing core Christian beliefs, including those that touch on hot-button political issues related to human dignity and sexuality,” says the report. “Attacks on houses of worship may also signal a discomfort with religion in general.”
Anti-Christian, Muslim-based hatred: Some acts of violence appeared to spring from Islamist sources. Last October, a man claiming to be with Hamas entered Sacred Heart Church in Cicero, New York, and threatened its employees.
International conflicts invaded U.S. churches throughout the year. Last September 24, vandals painted an anti-Christian, pro-Muslim slogan on St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. The message — “Artsakh is Dead, Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” which was taped to the Armenian church’s outdoor bulletin board — referred to a violent Christian-Muslim feud over control of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh) between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A few attacks also involved Jewish issues, including vandalizing a sign showing support for Israel and graffiti on one church denouncing “Israel’s genocide.”
Targeting minority churches: A few attacks targeted ethnic minorities. The report documents nine attacks targeting Missionary Baptist churches and six targeting parishes of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME). Additionally, on October 28, someone burned down Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, which serves the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Parmelee, South Dakota.
Some incidents straddled the line between arson and the demonic. “In June, Ascension of the Lord Romanian Orthodox Church of Hayward, California, was broken into, and several religious artifacts were set on fire, including a Bible and a crucifix. The charred items and ashes were left around an altar,” the report notes.
Whatever the purported motivation, many anti-church attackers directly invoked demonic forces in their attacks on the church, which the Bible identifies as “the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
Satan: “At least 12 incidents included satanic imagery or symbols,” the report notes. It goes on to specify numerous examples:
- In July, vandals broke into Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church of El Paso, Texas, and left behind satanic imagery, including writing the number “666” on multiple items. Crosses inside the church were also turned upside down, and holy oil was dumped out.
- In October, someone spray-painted the words “Devil Has Risen” and a symbol like a pentagram on the buildings of Jesus Worship Center in Jennings, Louisiana.”
- Last February 4, vandals desecrated the Old Philadelphia Church — the oldest church in Izzard County, Arkansas — with inverted crosses and a pentagram.
- Last October 7, someone spray-painted “Their [sic] is no God” on the marquee of Miracle Faith Christian Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
- A vandal spray-painted “Lucifer Lives Here” and “God No More” on Bethlehem Church in Austin, Texas, on October 29.
These attacks leave aside the largest category of anti-church hostility: vandalism.
General anti-Christian vandalism: The 315 acts of vandalism against churches include disturbing reports, including:
- A man broke into the Roman Catholic Subiaco Abbey Church of St. Benedict in Subiaco, Arkansas, busting the marble altar with a hammer and stealing 1,500-year-old relics.
- Last January 12, vandals attacked five churches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. One of its targets alone, Greater Tabernacle Worship Center, suffered $15,000 of damage.
- The next day, a lone vandal targeted three Roman Catholics churches in New Jersey, setting fire to a flagpole in one, and attempting to burn a cross in front of another.
- In January, a vandal spray painted “Mary is the whore of Babylon” inside a Roman Catholic church in Billings, Montana, in addition to stealing $8,300 of statutes and paintings, and doing $4,000 damage.
- Weeks later, a man poured bleach on a statue of the Virgin Mary and threw a statue of Baby Jesus down the stairs at Good Shepherd Church in Fall River, Massachusetts.
- A woman defecated and wiped feces on the altar of the chapel inside Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati on May 13.
The Biden administration cannot plead ignorance of church desecrations and vandalism targeting houses of worship: The administration actively warned such incidents would increase for the foreseeable future. Last May 27, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin warning of “a heightened threat environment” for churches and religious institutions, thanks to “the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues,” such as issues involving “the LGBTQIA+ community.” The Biden administration then opened its Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC), allegedly to advise houses of worship on how to improve security. Biden’s handpicked FBSAC members included controversial street agitator Al Sharpton, LGBTQ activists, and “three Islamists.”
Experts say the skyrocketing number of attacks on churches mirrors the general anti-Christian tenor of the Biden administrations’ policies, at home and abroad. President Joe Biden’s “indifference abroad to the fundamental freedom of religion is rivaled only by the increasing antagonism toward the moral absolutes taught by Bible-believing churches here in the U.S.,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. The Biden administration’s whole-of-government opposition to biblical morality is “fomenting this environment of hostility toward churches.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.
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