436 acts of hostility against US churches documented in 2023: report

By The Christian Post |
Fowler United Methodist Church of Annapolis, Maryland.
Authorities investigate the severe vandalism committed on June 8, 2023, at Fowler United Methodist Church of Annapolis, Maryland. | Facebook/Eastport United Methodist Church
Hostility against churches in the United States appears to be on the rise, according to a recent Family Research Council report that identified 436 incidents against churches in 2023, more than double the amount reported by the group in 2022 and eight times the number identified in 2018. 

The conservative Christian advocacy organization released its latest "Hostility Against Churches" report this month, which FRC updated to include hostility incidents from the calendar year 2023.

The organization has collected data about acts of hostility against churches since 2018, identifying 915 such incidents over the past six years.

Between January and November 2023, FRC reported that at least 315 occurrences of vandalism, 75 arson attacks or attempts, 10 gun-related incidents, 20 bomb threats and 37 other incidents took place at churches. According to the report, 17 of the incidents fell into more than one category, with vandalism and arson being the most common combination. 

"There is a common connection between the growing religious persecution abroad and the rapidly increasing hostility toward churches here at home: our government's policies," FRC President Tony Perkins said in a Tuesday statement

"The 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., which is fomenting this environment of hostility toward churches," he continued. 

According to FRC, the rise in hostility against churches has "neither slowed nor plateaued" since its inaugural report in 2022 but has "accelerated" instead. 

Reported hostile acts against churches were "widespread" across 48 states and the District of Columbia in 2023. Incidents were more likely to occur in states with larger populations, the report notes.

While Hawaii and Wyoming had no reported incidents, California had the most, 33, while Texas was second with 28 incidents. 

The report documented an act of vandalism in June that caused over $100,000 in damages to the Fowler United Methodist Church, a historically black church in Annapolis, Maryland. Vandals ripped pages from Bibles and hymnals, scattering the torn pages across the floor and pews. 

In addition to ripping the upholstered pews and taking down a large wooden cross, the vandals removed a Christian flag from its stand and stripped the church's outdoor sign of its lettering. 

In Ohio, several incidents appeared to be related to Issue 1, a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to establish a right to abortion. According to the report, someone pulled a "Vote No" sign out of the ground at Cincinnati's St. Monica-St. George Church and threw it in a dumpster. In a separate incident at another Cincinnati-based church, St. Bartholomew Church, someone removed between six and eight "Vote No" signs and replaced them with "Vote Yes" signs. 

The report lists a couple of acts of vandalism with "anti-Israel or antisemitic sentiment" after the Hamas terror group's Oct. 7 surprise attack against Israel. In November, a "We stand with Israel" sign was spray-painted with the words "Israel's Genocide" on the property of The Church at Decatur Heights in Decatur, Georgia.

The report notes a dozen incidents "included satanic imagery or symbols."

"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," the report reads. "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."

In January 2023, vandals targeted multiple Nativity scenes, FRC notes. 

As for the 75 incidents of arson, attempted arson or fires with unknown causes, incidents ranged from "small fires that were quickly contained to fires that completely destroyed church buildings." In most cases, motivation was unknown. 

"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 report states. "The charred items and ashes were left around an altar."

Although nobody was hurt in most of the 10 gun-related incidents reported by FRC, the report also lists the shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, a Presbyterian school in which six people, including three students, were killed by a trans-identified shooter. 

Arielle Del Turco, director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty and the report's author, believes that the effect of these acts of hostility is "religious intimidation." 

"They send the message that churches are not wanted in the community or respected in general. Our culture is demonstrating a growing disdain for Christianity and core Christian beliefs, and acts of hostility against churches could be a physical manifestation of that," the author stated.

"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."

FRC documented at least 420 acts of hostility against churches in the United States in its December 2022 report. In its previous analysis, FRC assessed available data between January 2018 and September 2022, documenting 397 incidents across 45 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

According to the FRC's April 2023 supplemental report, 69 acts of vandalism against churches occurred in the first quarter of 2023, an increase in the number of attacks compared to previous years. The supplemental report is built on previous data published in December 2022. 

Originally published by The Christian Post