Last week’s mass murder of six people at a church-run Christian school constitutes 2023’s deadliest act of violence against churches, which have increased nearly three times this year compared to last year, a new report from Family Research Council finds. The number of anti-church attacks in 2022 had already tripled over four years, a previous report found.
In all, assailants attacked churches 69 times in the first three months of 2023, compared with 24 such acts during the same period last year, a 288% increase. The rising tempo of anti-Christian assaults — which includes arsons, bomb threats, vandalism, and sacrilege — has affected places of worship in 29 states. The motives behind such desecration run the gamut from pro-abortion activism or controversies over transgender ideology to apparently senseless acts of destruction.
“American churches are increasingly bearing the brunt of anger and aggression, whether that’s from political or other motivations,” the report’s author — Arielle Del Turco, assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council — told The Washington Stand. “This contributes to an environment of hostility toward Christianity.”
The acts of anti-church aggression documented between January and March of this year includes:
- 53 incidents of vandalism;
- 10 suspicious fires;
- Three gun-related incidents; and
- Three bomb threats — including a pipe bomb recovered outside Philadelphia’s 127-year-old St. Dominic Catholic Church.
“If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked,” the report notes. The number of church attacks in 2023 already exceeds “the entirety of 2018, in which we identified only 50 incidents, or 2020, in which we identified 54.”
The month of January 2023 had more church attacks than any single month in the five years FRC has kept records, with 43 such events, according to data furnished to TWS. “This steep increase is a cause for concern,” says the update.
Hostility toward Christian views of hot-button political issues have exploded into violence and vandalism numerous times this year. In January, abortion activists spray painted the words “Women’s Body, Women’s Choice” over a pro-life banner hanging outside St. Stephen Catholic Church in Riverview, Florida.
Last month, transgender activists lashed out at Kentucky legislators who voted against their agenda by defacing an historic church. Vandals spray painted the words “TRANS PWR” on St. Joseph Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 3 — “the day after the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect children from harmful gender-transition procedures,” the report states. Undeterred state legislators enacted the child safety protections over Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto later that month.
Individuals who identify as transgender have focused their rage on Christian facilities as well. In addition to 28-year-old Audrey Hale’s attack on The Covenant School in Nashville, a 27-year-old man who identifies as a woman set the 117-year-old Portland Korean Church building ablaze on January 3. The suspect, whose legal name is Cameron Storer, claimed to hear voices that “threatened to ‘mutilate’ Storer if Storer refused to burn the church down,” the new FRC report states.
Nashville police have yet to release Hale’s “manifesto,” purportedly due to an “ongoing investigation,” but officers have said Hale’s views of the transgender issue may have touched off her violent rampage. Storer apparently suffers from mental illness, which afflicts those who identify as LGBTQ at far higher rates than average, according to the Biden administration.
Sometimes, the same perpetrator strikes multiple times. Police say 40-year-old Peter Sirolli vandalized three Roman Catholic churches in New Jersey on the same morning, including burning a 10-foot-tall cross on the lawn of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Woodbury on January 13.
The new FRC update builds on an 84-page report released last December. In the original study, FRC verified 420 acts of hostility against houses of worship between January 2018 and September 2022. The new addition brings the full number of anti-Christian incidents in 2022 up to date. In the original report, FRC calculated 137 intentionally damaging incidents against churches had taken place through last September. The last three months of 2022 brought an additional 54 such acts, bringing the total number of assaults against churches to 191 in 2022.
In all, researchers documented a total of 543 attacks on 517 separate churches between January 2018 and March 2023. Of the 517 separate churches attacked, 26 of the churches were victimized more than once, with three being targeted three times each, according to data furnished to The Washington Stand.
Between 2018 and 2023, American churches have suffered:
- 442 acts of vandalism;
- 71 cases of arson;
- 15 gun-related incidents;
- 14 bomb threats; and
- 25 miscellaneous acts of aggression against church facilities
A total of 25 incidents fell into multiple categories, according to FRC researchers.
The worst period of sustained assaults during those 39 months broke out last summer over the unprecedented, and heretofore unsolved, leak of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling last May. After the media reported the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue of abortion to democratic control, pro-abortion activists committed 86 attacks against Christian churches last May (24), June (28), and July (34).
Churches also sustained damage from the “Black Lives Matter” riots, which broke out in the summer of 2020 over the killing of George Floyd. BLM rioters committed 11 acts of church desecration, researchers told TWS.
Despite the quickening pulse of anti-Christian crimes, some of which have been investigated as “hate crimes,” conservatives say the Biden administration has been too lax in its response. In January, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 3, which noted that abortion extremists such as Jane’s Revenge had “defaced, vandalized, and caused destruction to over 100 pro-life facilities, groups, and churches” in 2022, yet “the Biden Administration has failed to take action to respond to the radical attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches, or to protect the rights of these organizations.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate has taken no action on the bill.
“American leaders and citizens alike should condemn acts of hostility against churches and affirm the right for all people to attend their houses of worship without feeling targeted or threatened,” Del Turco told TWS.