Two pro-life signs on a Maine church were splattered with red paint. Another sign bore the message, "Abortion is our human right," and beneath that was spray painted "Queer Love 4 eva."
It was the third time in five years that the Second Baptist Church in Palermo, Maine, has been vandalized, Pastor Joshua Barnes told The Epoch Times on Sept. 17.
"It seems like such behaviors are escalating nationwide, and it needs to be looked into," he said.
"Conservative Christians need to have the same access to investigations and justice as anyone else would if it were reversed."
Pastor Barnes said video footage captured the actions carried out by several vandals who arrived late at night in two vehicles, but the images are too dark and blurry to make out their faces or license plates.
The pastor was hoping police would try to locate other footage from the scene but said that, so far, to his knowledge, the Waldo County Sheriff's Department has not begun an investigation into the incident.
The department did not respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times.
In a written response to inquiries from The Epoch Times about the attack on the church, Danna Hayes, a spokesperson for the Maine Attorney General's office, which this year joined 21 states in opposing the criminalization of re-gendering minors, said she "cannot confirm or deny the existence of the office’s investigations."
Ms. Hayes suggested that a civil rights complaint would have to be made in order to trigger the AG's office to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
State Republican lawmakers are prepared to follow through.
State Rep. Katrina Smith told The Epoch Times she plans to make a formal request to the AG's office to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
"It seems like good white Christians can't be victims anymore," said Ms. Smith.
"It doesn't make any sense that someone has to push for an investigation. That sounds like double standards to me."
In 2019, the Second Baptist Church, located about 18 miles from Augusta, Maine's capital, was the target of similar vandalism. A sign that said Jesus Created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, had been broken up, and red paint was splashed across its pro-life sign.
It was caught on video camera and turned over to police, according to Pastor Barnes, but he said police did not follow up with the church on the footage. That same year, he said someone with a masculine voice left messages on the church's answering machines that he would like to "catch the pastor in a dark alley."
In 2022, red paint was splashed again on the church's signs and one side of the church, the pastor said.
The AG's office in Maine has investigated several acts of anti-LGBT vandalism.
In 2021, a black circle with a line drawn through it on a Pride flag in Bangor was treated as a hate crime.
The office has also declined to prosecute LGBT vandalism as a hate crime. Last year, it declined the Hallowell police's request to prosecute the theft of pride flags as a hate crime and, according to The Kennebec Journal, said the matter instead needed to be investigated at the local level.
A Double Standard on Hate Crime?Nationally, Christians have said they feel like the government practices a double standard when it comes to what it considers a hate crime and how it prosecutes those crimes.
In May, a coalition of conservative organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over its alleged lack of prosecuting attacks against pro-life churches and pregnancy support centers.
“They refuse to prosecute those who violently attack pro-life organizations simply for existing and who attempt to coerce and intimidate Supreme Court justices into ruling the way the mob desires,” Mike Howell Director of the Oversight Project, told the Catholic News Agency, “Meanwhile, they send SWAT teams to the homes of pro-life Americans to arrest and prosecute them on trumped-up, phony charges.”
In 2020, an Iowa man was sentenced to a 16-year prison term for tearing down and burning an LGBT flag hanging from the United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa. The man was prosecuted under the state's hate crime laws.
Yet it still remains a protected First Amendment right in the United States to burn the American flag.
In 2021, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported that at least 274 acts of vandalism were committed against Catholic churches in 43 states. They included arson, beheading of religious statues, and defacing gravestones.
In an updated report in March 2023, the national organization listed more than a hundred new acts of vandalism against the Catholic church, with dozens committed this year.
According to published reports, in August, a man was caught on a surveillance camera using a snow shovel to break statues, vases, and candles, inside the Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, Ohio. He was still inside the church when police arrived.
A crucifix was reported destroyed inside the Holy Family Catholic Church in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and a man and minor child were seen on security video smashing several historic stained glass windows using rocks and a baseball at the Notre Dame Church in Ogdensburg, New York.
In July, the Orange County Sheriff's Department in California told CNA it was considering treating the incident of a sawed-down 14-foot wooden cross as a hate crime. It had been erected in honor of Father's Day for an upcoming Catholic retreat.
The recent vandalism against the Second Baptist Church came just a few months after Democratic lawmakers in Maine introduced legislation to make the New England state a trans-kid sanctuary state. Under the proposal, nonresidents will be granted asylum from prosecution in their home state as well as protection against out-of-custody court orders, provided they bring a minor to the state under the premise they are seeking help to transgender the child.
According to Ms. Smith, the proposal is still to be actively considered in committee.
It also follows Maine's passage of a law deemed barbaric by some conservatives. The law allows late-term abortions, including aborting a baby at full-term "whenever a doctor deems it medically necessary."
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed the measure into law in July.