Report: First Quarter of 2023 Sees ‘Significant Increase’ In Acts of Hostility Against Churches

Graffiti was found Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 on two outside walls at East Columbus Christian C
Joe Harpring/AP

January through March of 2023 has seen a “significant increase in acts of hostility” against churches compared to the same time frame last year, according to an April report from the Family Research Council. 

Research conducted by Family Research Council (FRC) indicates that 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,” according to the report.

“…In the first quarter of 2023, 69 incidents have already occurred. If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked, continuing the upward trend. Most of the 2023 incidents occurred in January (43); 14 occurred in February, and 12 occurred in March.”

In those same months, 2018 saw 15 acts of hostility against churches, 2019 saw 12, 2020 saw none, 2021 saw 14, and 2022 saw 24, according to the supplemental report.

The FRC began analyzing publicly available data at the beginning of 2022 in an effort to identify possible trends in acts of vandalism, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, and other acts of hostility perpetrated against churches in the United States. FRC notes that tracking physical incidents against churches is “an important data point for larger discussions about increasing intolerance toward Christianity in American society.”

The original 85-page report released in December 2022 notes that the FRC’s count is “not comprehensive” because “many 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.”

“Thus, the number of acts of hostility is undoubtedly much higher than the number reflected in this report. This report is intended to compile the data that is publicly reported and identify any trends,” the report states. 

The FRC was able to identify a total of 420 documented acts of hostility against churches in the United States between January 2018 and September 2022. Each year appeared to show an increase in frequency, with 191 incidents in 2022, 96 incidents in 2021, 54 in 2020, 83 in 2019, and 50 in 2018.

Most of the incidents that occurred between January and March of this year have been acts of vandalism, according to the report. The FRC identified 53 cases of vandalism; ten arson attacks, attempts, or fires with unknown causes; three gun-related incidents; three bomb threats; and two other incidents (assault, etc.). Three of the incidents fell into more than one category.

The events have occurred across 29 states this year and across 45 states and the District of Columbia within the past five years. 

The December report pointed out that churches saw a spike in graffiti incidents with pro-abortion messages and protests that interrupted church services following the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. The FRC found that at least 57 incidents from January to September of 2022 were directly tied to pro-abortion protests or contained pro-abortion messages.

“By contrast, only five incidents between 2019 and 2021 were abortion-related,” according to the report. 

The FRC report warned that “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.”

“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,” according to the report. 

“…The anger and division that increasingly characterize American society are endangering churches and eroding religious freedom,” the report continued. “When congregants feel targeted by members of their communities or church buildings bear the brunt of outrage over political events, the very ability to live out one’s faith safely is under attack. Violent or destructive incidents that interfere with an individual’s lawful free exercise of religion at their house of worship present a significant nationwide challenge.”


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