Rising Number of Attacks on US Churches in 2023 on Pace to Set Record: Report

Rising Number of Attacks on US Churches in 2023 on Pace to Set Record: Report
A balloon with names of the victims is seen at a memorial at the entrance to The Covenant School, in Nashville, Tenn., on March 29, 2023. (Wade Payne/AP Photo)
Douglas Burton

Attacks on American churchgoers in 2023 are on pace to make it the worst in six years, according to a Washington non-profit group.

“Criminal acts against churches have been steadily on the rise for the past several years, and the first quarter of 2023 has continued the upward trend,” the Family Research Council reported on April 10 in a supplement to its issue brief titled “Hostility to Churches.

The killing of six people in the Covenant School shooting on March 27 in Tennessee, and vandalism on church properties, point to a spike in attacks against Christians since the council started tracking such events in 2018.

By Easter Sunday on April 9, believers had witnessed three times as many acts of hostility as in the same timeframe in 2022, the FRC reported.

Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians. (Courtesy of Dede Laugesen)
Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians. (Courtesy of Dede Laugesen)

Some attacks on church property include assaults on staff—such as the assault on the entrance of St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, on June 28, 2022.

A 31-year-old man, who identifies as transgender, spray-painted a church employee and did more than $30,000 worth of damage before police arrested him.

A year later the Biden administration’s Department of Justice stands accused of bias in handling a plea deal that calls for no jail time for 31-year-old Maeve Nota, who destroyed an Italian-made Blessed Virgin Mary statue, smashed windows, and sprayed paint on administrator Jonathan Taasan.

By contrast, pro-life activist Mike Houck faced 11 years in prison for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act after a protest in which he had pushed aside an abortion staffer.

A Pennsylvania jury acquitted Houck on Jan. 30, 2023.

Less Respect for Christianity

The number of attacks on Christian believers compiled by FRC policy expert Arielle Del Turco tells the story.

“There appeared to be an increase in frequency over the course of the reporting,” Del Turco wrote. “FRC’s report identified 137 acts of hostility against churches between January and September 2022.

“By comparison, there were 96 incidents in all 12 months of 2021. FRC also identified 54 incidents against churches in 2020, 83 in 2019, and 50 in 2018.”

The question for many faithful is “Why?’

“Growing secularism in the United States means that fewer people are familiar with Christianity and therefore are less respectful,” Del Turco said to The Epoch Times.

“Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion—in this case, churches and Christianity,” she observes in her report.

“Some people 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,” Del Turco adds.

Agencies ‘Targeting’ Christians

The FRC Report gives context to ripples within believer communities who fear that in addition to random acts of murder by school shooters, agencies of the federal government are targeting Christians.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is among them. Hawley grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland on March 1 to find out how many FBI agents had developed sources within Catholic Latin Mass Churches in an effort to smoke out domestic terrorists.

A leaked FBI memo cited “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” as a link to groups with an “adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT and white supremacist ideology,” according to media reports.

Garland denied the FBI had done it, but Hawley accused him of lying.

“This is a symptom of a very sad and dark agenda of the Left,” said Patti Price, founder of Our Voices for Freedom, a conservative advocacy group in Frederick, Maryland.

“It’s a very fundamental and systemic prejudice against the majority of Americans, and those who acknowledge individual rights endowed by our Creator.

“It’s the start of a Jacobin reign of terror from those who seek communist power, while they demand diversity, but tolerate zero diversity of thought and conscience,” Price said.

The report is troubling, according to Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians.

Trust Is Shattered

“Violent trans-extremists and shadow groups like Jane’s Revenge, are targeting Christians across America.

“Whether it is vandalism and destructive violence to property or worse—the mass shooting of Christian students and their teachers—it is all a worrisome sign of America’s cold-morality civil war turning hot,” Laugesen said to The Epoch Times.

“Tempers are short, and trust is shattered on both sides of the divide,” said Laugesen.

“Even more worrisome is the federal government and its agencies’ support of those rallying against people of belief and traditional principles versus the lopsided heavy-handed treatment, censorship, and overt ‘othering’ of Christians, concerned parents, and others who, as President Obama said, ‘cling’ to ‘guns or religion,’” Laugesen went on to say.

“We know that left unchecked, destruction and vandalism of properties associated with marginalized groups—and Christians in America are being dehumanized, dismissed, censored, and shoved out of the public square—will eventually lead to the kind of violent persecution seen elsewhere and which historically has led to the death of millions,” Laugesen said.

“Violence on either side is wrong. Treating one side of the divide with impunity and praise while exacting punishment upon the other is dangerous to the extreme.

“The Nashville shootings ought to be labeled a hate crime and prosecuted as such by the DOJ and state authorities.”

Douglas Burton is a former U.S. State Department official who was stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq. He writes news and commentary from Washington, D.C.
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