Tag Archive for: Church Attacks

PERKINS: Hostility to Churches Fueled by Biden’s Anti-Faith Climate

“It’s an emotional moment,” Pastor Robin Lutjohann said quietly, surveying the rubble of his church. “It’s been a place of worship for a number of communities for over a century,” he told reporters after a six-alarm fire raged through the building Easter Sunday, destroying the Massachusetts landmark. “It fills me with sadness and dread about the work that is ahead of us,” Lutjohann admitted, wondering why anyone would have such malice toward Faith Lutheran. “If and when a person is found who has done this then we will pray for the power to forgive,” he insisted.

Unfortunately, his congregation isn’t alone in that prayer. An astonishing 436 churches in America were victims of criminal attacks in 2023, according to a new report from Family Research Council — more than double the number in 2022. From shattering stained glass and spray-painting relics to lighting five-gallon drums of gasoline on fire and riddling altars with bullet holes, houses of worship have become an increasingly dangerous target.

“You just feel the hate,” Rev. Jerome Jones shook his head, still shocked at the sight of his trashed Maryland sanctuary. Bibles, ripped into shreds that “looked like snow” on the pews, slashed upholstery, the big wooden cross — where congregants lifted their hands during the offering — torn down and tossed on the $100,000 of damage. From now on, Jones had to tell worshippers, “the cross is in your hearts.”

His Fowler United Methodist Church is just a few miles from the Maryland State House, a fact that didn’t shield Jones from the violence that too many U.S. congregations are experiencing. If anything, experts say, our country’s deepening political divides may be what’s fanning the all-too-real flames. The growing anti-faith rhetoric of the Left, led by the Biden administration’s own bigotry toward Christians, has made it open season on houses of worship. After just 55 acts of hostility in 2020 under Donald Trump, the aggression has skyrocketed from 96 (2021) to 195 (2022) to a staggering 436 acts last year.

None of this happened in a vacuum. Under the Biden administration, there’s one common denominator between the growing religious persecution abroad and the rapidly increasing hostility toward churches here at home: our government’s policies.

Frankly, Congressman Nathanial Moran (R-Texas) insisted on Tuesday’s “Washington Watch,” the biggest reason for this spike is probably because “this is the behavior that’s being modeled by the federal government.” When we see “the Department of Justice weaponizing its political views against everyday Americans and religious institutions and faith-based organizations, more of [these attacks] are going to happen.”

Under Joe Biden, men and women at the highest levels of government have not only condoned religious intimidation, they’ve encouraged it — refusing to investigate, hold culprits accountable, or worse, targeting Christians themselves. From the FBI to IRS, the Biden administration has spent the last three years criminalizing Americans with biblical views, only to turn around and complain about threats to democracy. What bigger threat is there than a government weaponized against its own people?

And sadly, this 800% spike in church attacks hasn’t just triggered terror here at home, it’s also had deadly consequences abroad. During my time as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), I witnessed firsthand that when American leaders turn their backs on religious hostility, it sends a message that the world’s persecuted are on their own.

As my friend and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo understood: “If we got it right here in America, good things would happen all across the world.” If we get it wrong, we’re no longer just hurting ourselves, but millions of innocents who depend on the United States to fight against oppression around the world.

We see evidence of that failure in the freshly dug graves in Nigeria, in the Christians hiding deep within Afghanistan, even in the global calls for Israel’s ceasefire. Biden’s weakness on the international stage has escalated the threat for the world’s religious populations to a degree we’ve not seen in modern history. And the situation grows more dire every day.

When America ignores the indiscriminate slaughter of 8,222 Nigerian Christians in a single year — even going so far as to remove the nation as a Country of Particular Concern from America’s watch list— it gives permission for other world leaders to look the other way. Worse, it sends a green light to terrorists everywhere to continue their killings, abductions, land-grabs, and torture. But if Joe Biden can’t be bothered to condemn thugs and vandals at home, how could he possibly take on jihadists?

At its core, this is cultural terrorism, and it’s designed to silence us. The spiritual enemy of our soul has a goal to intimidate Christians everywhere into backing away from speaking biblical truth. So here’s what we’ve got to do: not yield.

Obviously, we need to take the appropriate precautions, so our people can come to church free of fear with the sole focus of worshiping the Lord. But then, we do something just as important: vote for men and women who respect and understand our vibrant First Amendment freedom, which is the ability — not only to worship God — but to live your life according to your faith. That means teaching your children. That means carrying your beliefs into the workplace.

So we need to be bold. We need to be courageous and live out our faith for the Lord in such a way as it brings honor and glory to him. Yes, we need to take the practical steps to make sure our churches are safe, but we cannot give in to those who would make us shrink back into the shadows of society. We need to continue to hold forth the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ — without apology.

AUTHOR

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Church Attacks Increase 800% in less than 6 Years: FRC Report

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.”

AUTHOR

Ben Johnson

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.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Prosecution of Pro-Lifers Continues under Biden’s DOJ, with 6 More Convictions

On Tuesday, a guilty verdict was announced for six pro-life activists for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act at an abortion facility near Nashville, Tenn. The Biden administration’s Justice Department brought the charges, which stemmed from a peaceful protest on March 5, 2021, in which a group of pro-lifers prayed and sang hymns at the entrance to the Carafem Health Center Clinic.

Video of the protest shows a group of approximately 20-30 pro-life activists peacefully praying and singing hymns while standing and sitting along the walls of a hallway leading to the door of the abortion facility, with a small segment of the group sitting directly in front of the facility’s entrance. Roughly two hours into the vigil, a number of protestors were arrested for blocking the entrance without incident.

In October 2022, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was charging 11 individuals involved in the protest with violating the federal FACE Act, which bars individuals from physically blocking the entrance to an abortion facility. Six of the defendants were eventually convicted on Tuesday, with each facing “up to a maximum of 10 and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $260,000,” with sentencing set for July 2. Four other defendants are scheduled to stand trial for misdemeanor violations of the FACE Act.

The Thomas More Society, which is representing the defendants, is expected to appeal the convictions.

The DOJ’s FACE Act prosecutions are the latest in a series of legal actions directed at pro-life activists under the Biden administration, in which at least 24 cases have been prosecuted since January 2021. At the same time, there have only been four FACE Act indictments of pro-abortion individuals related to a single attack on a pregnancy resource center in Florida, despite the fact that there have been hundreds of attacks that have occurred against churches and pregnancy resource centers during Biden’s tenure.

As noted by Family Research Council’s Arielle Del Turco during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last year, the FACE Act was originally designed to protect abortion facilities, pregnancy resource centers, and places of worship. The types of attacks committed against churches have included “vandalism, arson, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, and interruption of worship services — all of which are punishable under the FACE Act,” she emphasized.

The disparity in prosecutions has led to Congress taking notice. In October, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced a bill to repeal the FACE Act, citing the biased enforcement that is being carried out by the Biden administration. “We need to repeal it and then stop giving authority to the Department of Justice to be able to go after [pro-life] people,” he told Tony Perkins in September.

In comments to The Washington Stand, Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, questioned the priorities of the Biden administration’s DOJ in targeting pro-lifers amid a spiraling border crisis and the spreading conflict in the Middle East.

“As countless little boys and girls are being trafficked across the border and wars wage across the world, the Biden administration thinks the most important thing to focus on is prosecuting peaceful protestors attempting to save unborn babies from a brutal death,” she pointed out. “Yes, these protestors violated the FACE Act, but the Biden administration should consider spending taxpayer dollars to protect America’s border — not to stop non-violent men and women who are simply singing hymns while defending the unborn.”

AUTHOR

Dan Hart

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.

RELATED ARTICLE: Report Catalogues Dozens of New Incidents of Persecution against Christians in the West

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Anti-Christian Hate Crimes Spike in Europe

A new report is documenting a drastic rise in anti-Christian hate crimes across Europe. The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe) published its annual report last week, detailing a 44% increase over the course of 2022 in social hostility towards and violent attacks against Christians as well as acts of vandalism and desecration against churches.

According to the report, 748 anti-Christian hate crimes were committed in Europe last year, 38 of which were violent physical attacks and three of which were murders. Arson attacks were also more common than in years past and churches were targeted for firebombings and vandalism, especially in France and Germany. In fact, arson attacks nearly doubled over the course of one year, rising from 60 attacks in 2021 to 106 in 2022.

The OIDAC Europe report noted that “there had been a surge of clear extremism-motivated attacks.” The majority of these attacks were committed by groups with far-left, satanic, Islamic, feminist, or LGBT affiliations. In comments to The Washington Stand, Irish Freedom Party founder and president Hermann Kelly said, “The increase in the number of anti-Christian hate crimes is truly shocking in a supposedly Christian continent. The presence of many millions of the Islamic faith which preaches hatred, domination, and annihilation of all non-Muslims has no doubt added greatly to the rise in anti-Christian violence.”

He added, “A second spike in the anti-Christian pincer movement is that of aggressive and militant secularism of the far Left. Incredibly, they find common allies and goals in the silencing of Christian public presence and influence in European society.”

In its report, OIDAC Europe also noted a growing movement to suppress religious liberty and criminalize Christian practices. In Ireland, for example, the government has been promoting what OIDAC called “Europe’s most extreme ‘hate speech’ bill.” The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Act would shift the burden of proof to the accused, who would have to demonstrate that they did not intend to “spread hate.” The bill criminalizes private materials, such as memes on a phone or books on a shelf, and could potentially outlaw Christian teachings on such subjects as LGBT ideology.

The bill, if enacted, would also allow police officers to obtain warrants to investigate suspected “hate speech” without presenting any evidence to a court. Other European nations have also seen “hate speech” legislation weaponized against Christians: two Catholic bishops in Spain have been prosecuted for repeating the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, numerous “street preachers” have been arrested in the U.K. for allegedly causing “distress” to those who disagreed with Christian teachings, and Finish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen was charged with “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity” for quoting Scripture.

Others have seen “hate speech” policies weaponized in areas like academia. In Ireland, schoolteacher Enoch Burke was dismissed from his post and eventually jailed for refusing to call a student by transgender pronouns. Welsh teacher Ben Dybowski was fired after being asked to share his Christian position on homosexuality and abortion during a confidential, mandatory diversity and gender awareness training session. U.K. teacher Joshua Sutcliffe was sacked for sharing his Christian views on marriage with students, and school chaplain Bernard Randall was dismissed for delivering a homily critical of the LGBT agenda.

Another area of concern is abortion “buffer zones,” designated areas outside of abortion facilities where prayer, protest, and pro-life counseling are legally prohibited. These “buffer zones” are becoming prevalent in Ireland, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. Last year, pro-life activist Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion facility in England. The Catholic woman held no rosary and did not speak aloud but simply stood in silence. She was arrested, tried, and acquitted, and then arrested again two weeks after the acquittal on the same charges.

Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, commented to The Washington Stand, “The preservation of religious freedom relies not just on good laws and legal victories, but also on cultural support. Sadly, we are looking at plummeting cultural support for the rights of Christians in the West and a rise of intolerance against the Christian faith, particularly when that faith is proclaimed boldly in the public square. This is symptomatic of the larger trend of secularization. As culture becomes increasingly secular, people understand and value it less. Christian beliefs about the human body, sexual ethics, or the exclusivity of Christ can be seen as offensive or even oppressive.”

She further noted, “Over time, this leads to greater erosion of religious freedom and cultural support for Christians simply wanting to live out their faith or express their beliefs.”

In its conclusion, the OIDAC Europe report stated, “As freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is a cornerstone for free and democratic societies, we hope that states will not compromise on the protection of these fundamental rights, and thus ensure an open and peaceful climate in our societies.” Hermann Kelly forcefully added, “Only a return to Christian faith, family, fecundity, and education will give culturally and demographically dying Europe the chance of a future.”

AUTHOR

S.A. McCarthy

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.

RELATED ARTICLE: The ‘Responsibility Liberation’: Why Men Need to be Part of the Pro-Life Effort

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Biden’s Council to Keep Churches Safe Includes Al Sharpton and ‘Three Islamists’

As attacks against churches have tripled over the last four years, the Biden administration has appointed a faith-based security commission to advise officials on how to keep churches safe — a council that includes Al Sharpton, a former leader of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and a Muslim leader who held a fundraiser for a convicted cop-killer.

The Department of Homeland Security warned that churches and “faith-based institutions” face a greater likelihood of violent attacks in the coming months due to the caustic U.S. political debate, warned a May 24 bulletin. To minimize the risk, the DHS “continues to engage a coalition of faith-based and community organizations, including members of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC),” which aims “to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of targeted violence or terrorism, major disasters, cyberattacks, or other threats or emergencies against places of worship, faith communities, and faith-based organizations.”

Members of the FBSAC include Sharpton, “three Islamists,” a rabbi who calls abortion a “righteous procedure,” and an LGBTQ activist, among others:

Al Sharpton founded the National Action Network shortly before the racially charged August 1991 Crown Heights riots. Sharpton led crowds in chanting, “No justice, no peace” before rioters claimed the life of rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum. Sharpton’s “vile rhetoric incited the rioting,” said Rosenbaum’s brother, Norman. A month earlier, Sharpton challenged New York’s Jewish community, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” In 1995, Sharpton would lead months-long demonstrations against Jewish “white interlopers” at Freddy’s Fashion Mart, who raised the rent of a black business owner; ultimately, a protester burned the store and killed eight people, including himself.

Naomi Washington-Leapheart most recently worked as “the Faith Work Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force,” one of the nation’s oldest LGBT pressure groups, which seeks to change Christianity’s Bible-based teachings about sexuality and gender. The Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources seeks to create a “paradigm shift in Christianity” to bring about the “unconditional welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and their families in the church home of their choice.” Washington-Leaphart, a self-styled “anti-oppression consultant” and “person of moral courage” who teaches Africana Studies and theology at Villanova University, led the Task Force’s “public faith messaging and advocacy and leadership development” to recruit LGBTQ advocates inside churches and religious institutions. Washington-Leapheart personally denounced the United Methodist Church as “immoral” for seeking to oust Karen Oliveto from a church leadership position “simply because she is an out and proud married [sic] lesbian.” Washington-Leapheart, who is ordained by the United Church of Christ, was “outraged” when President Donald Trump issued a 2019 conscience regulation protecting health care workers from being coerced into taking part in abortions, transgender surgeries, or assisted suicides — a rule the Task Force called “immoral.” She also endorsed the so-called “Equality Act,” which would amend landmark civil rights legislation to add gender identity and sexual preference, creating what critics call second-class, “separate but equal status” for Christians. The Task Force also operates the “Queering Reproductive Justice” campaign. “Although many people talk about reproductive health as a ‘women’s issue,’ many LGBTQ people — including lesbian and bisexual women, transgender men, two-spirit, intersex, nonbinary and gender non-conforming individuals — can get pregnant, use birth control, have abortions,” the campaign says. “Most recently, our opponents have been using religion and ‘conscience’ as a guise for discrimination against LGBTQ people and people seeking access to reproductive health services.”

Leslie Copeland-Tune of the National Council of Churches (NCC), which has long embraced left-of-center views in the name of Christianity. Thanks to the dwindling number of mainline Protestants, beginning in 2005 the NCC received the bulk of its donations from left-wing nonprofits, including some led by George Soros, according to Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Copeland-Tune said in December 2020 that the belief that America is a Christian nation is “almost toxic” and “has really fed into the idea of white nationalism, of Christian nationalism.” In 2021, one of NCC’s “priorities” was H.R. 40, which “would explore offering reparations” to black Americans “as a matter of equity.” She judged that Trayvon Martin’s “assassination” served as “an indictment on the character of a nation.” The NCC leader, ordained in a Baptist church, said President Donald Trump’s 2018 proposed budget, which cut welfare spending as a means of reducing government dependence, “legislates evil.”

Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, commonly known as Imam Mohamed Magid, is the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center. In March 2008, Magid spoke at an ADAMS Center fundraiser for convicted cop-killer H. Rap Brown (who now goes by the name “Jamil Al-Amin”); participants at the event described Brown, who murdered a black deputy and wounded his partner, as “a political prisoner.” Brown leads the National Ummah, whose “primary mission is to establish a separate, sovereign Islamic state within the borders of the United States, governed by Shariah law,” according to the FBI. Magid was present when federal agents raided the ADAMS Center in March 2002 as the government investigated the SAAR Network based in the “Grove Street addresses,” more than 100 interlocking Muslim organizations at two addresses that the government accused of giving material aid to terrorists; ultimately, it did not arrest anyone. Magid spoke at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004.

In 2006, Magid denied the Sudanese genocide in Darfur, telling Georgetown University students that “things escalated, and people called it genocide” merely out of “some kind of exaggeration.” The U.S. State Department called the slaughter, which reportedly claimed an estimated 200,000 lives, a “genocide” in which Arab Muslims often targeted African Christians. “The government of Sudan is carrying out genocidal practices against its religious and ethnic minorities,” Nina Shea, then a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told Congress in 2001. Last August, Joe Biden also appointed Magid to USCIRF.

Salam al-Marayati co-founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Al-Marayati compared Islamic terrorists to “American freedom fighters hundreds of years ago” and described the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans as “not in a strict sense, a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties — exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington’s enemies.” The Washington Timeshas described MPAC as “an anti-Semitic organization that has defended infamous terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.” Both MPAC and Magid have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist, Islamist organization whose membership included al-Qaeda founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although bin Laden’s mother said the Brotherhood “brainwashed” him into its “cult,” MPAC has stated the Brotherhood poses “long-term strategic threats to violent extremists by siphoning Muslims away from violent radicalism into peaceful political activism.” MPAC subsequently likened an Egyptian government more amenable to the Muslim Brotherhood to America’s Founding Fathers.

“Biden’s handlers would never dream of appointing someone who actually opposes jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women. If they did, there would be a huge outcry over ‘Islamophobia,’ and the appointment would be withdrawn,” wrote Robert Spencer, an expert on the Islamic religion, on JihadWatch.org. “But these guys? No problem.”

Chandru Acharya is the director of Hindu Sawamsayvak Sangh (HSS-USA), which invited Hindu militant Sadhvi Ritambhara to an event in Georgia last August 30-31. When she believed Indian extremists had murdered a Roman Catholic nun for trying to convert a Hindu in 1995, Ritambhara threatened, “If a single choti [or shika, the tuft of hair thought to bring cosmic enlightenment] or janeu [sacred thread worn by Hindus] is cut, Christians will be wiped out from the face of India.” She was also said to be “the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence” in the world’s second-most-populous nation. Critics — most of whom belong to U.S. Muslim or left-wingorganizations — say their concerns are less with Acharya “as a person” than with the HSS-USA’s purported ties to groups advocating a Hindu nationalist philosophy known as Hindutva.

Talib M. Shareef serves as imam and president of the D.C.-based Masjid Muhammad, “the nation’s mosque.” The mosque was founded by W. Deen Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Mohammed. Shareef hosted current NOI leader Louis Farrakhan at the mosque’s 75th anniversary in 2013. In 2018, Shareef was arrested alongside extremists Linda Sarsour and Nihad Awad outside then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s office while demanding the extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program.

Jonah Dov Pesnerdirector of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), has dependably promoted left-wing causes, often while citing the Bible. He called abortion a “righteous procedure.” He “vehemently condemn[ed]” the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which he asserted would “undermine the religious freedom of people … in the Jewish tradition” — a view denounced by many Jewish and rabbinical authorities. The rabbi is a board member of the liberal NAACP and says he supports “LGBTQ+ equality,” including “celebrating” last year’s passage of H.R. 8404, which critics called the “Disrespect for Marriage Act.” He also decried “anti-LGBTQ+ bills” primarily aimed at protecting young people from life-altering surgeries. Yet Pesner invoked the words of the prophet Isaiah, Genesis, and Proverbs to support Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill while standing amid a crowd of mask-clad Religious Left leaders at an outdoor press conference in December 2021. Upon his appointment to the FBSAC, Pesner said he will not necessarily call for police to guard houses of worship, especially in minority areas due to “a real danger of overpolicing.” Recent polls have found 81% of black Americans want the same or greater levels of police presence in their neighborhoods.

Julie Schonfeld, the former CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, gave the closing benediction at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and founded Jewish Women for Joe [Biden] during the 2020 election. While leading the Rabbinical Assembly, which guides synagogues affiliated with Conservative Judaism, in 2011 the rabbi “involved gay rabbinical students” (the “treasured members of our community”) in the production of a Jewish service blessing same-sex couples. The RA adopted the rite blessing same-sex Jewish couples to establish “a true and faithful Jewish home” 13-0 in 2012. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision struck down the pivotal section of the Defense of Marriage Act, Schonfeld said conservative Judaism “celebrates marriages, whether between partners of the same sex or the opposite sex. We therefore celebrate today’s decisions on gay marriage.” In 2020, she called on clergy to promote the COVID-19 vaccine.

Few FBSAC members represent the majority view of churchgoers on social issues such as abortion and marriage.

While Moshe Hauer of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America criticized New York state’s overbearing regulations of Jewish religious schools (yeshivas), the rabbi thanked Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) for offering a “religious liberty” amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act that most faith-based groups found legally useless. His response to the Supreme Court’s pro-life Dobbs ruling proved muted. “The Orthodox Union is unable to either mourn or celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade,” the group said.

Pastor Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition led more than 100 pastors in urging the Democratic Party to oppose abortion and uphold the biblical definition of marriage. He stands closer to Biden on immigration, as the Orlando-based pastor supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and opposes a bill by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) to punish nonprofits that knowingly aid illegal immigrants, adding that sometimes his ministry drives illegal immigrants “to their lawyer.”

The FBSAC also includes representatives from the Salvation Army, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act), and the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.

The president specifically chose these members to “ensure equity, maintain openness and transparency, and fully restore the trust of the communities we serve,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when he installed the 25 FBSAC members last September 19.

It is unclear how the council, which advises the DHS on keeping churches and “faith-based institutions” safe, responded to the escalating attacks on U.S. churches and pro-life pregnancy resource centers, many of which are affiliated with churches. Arsons, desecrations, and vandalism of U.S. churches nearly tripled in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 2022. There have been 353 attacks on U.S. churches between the beginning of the Biden administration and March 31, according to documentation in two separate reports by Arielle Del Turco of Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty.

The DHS faith council’s left-wing orientation is reminiscent of President Biden’s short-lived National Parents and Families Engagement Council, which was formed last June 14 after a year of parental backlash against extreme gender ideology and critical race theory in public schools. After an exposé of the council by The Washington Stand, three conservative legal organizations — America First Legal Foundation, Fight for Schools and Families, and Parents Defending Education — sued, saying the parents council’s makeup violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisors to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view.” Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and three other U.S. senators wrote that the family council had “forgotten to include any actual families” in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona dated December 2.

Three days later, the Biden administration dismantled the council, less than six months after its formation.

AUTHOR

Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.


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