Featured Image
Left: Graffiti on a sign at St. John Naumann Catholic Church in Virginia. Right: A masked vandal spray-paints St. Louise Catholic Church in Washington state after smashing a glass door with a rock.Twitter screenshot and CNA YouTube screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — Violent attacks and threats on Christian churches across the United States more than doubled from 2022 to 2023 and have risen by 800 percent since 2018, according to a newly released report by the Family Research Council (FRC).

The report found that there were at least 436 acts of vandalism, arson attempts, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, graffiti, and other acts of hostility in the first 11 months of 2023 across 48 states plus the District of Columbia, which was more than twice the amount as the year before. The real number was “undoubtedly much higher,” however, because many “are likely not reported to authorities and/or are not featured in the news or other online sources from which we collected data.”

The latest tally represents an 800% rise from the mere 50 documented in 2018.

“The rise in hostility we identified in our December 2022 report has neither slowed nor plateaued; rather, it has accelerated,” report author Arielle Del Turco wrote. “The rise in crimes against churches is taking place in a context in which American culture appears increasingly hostile to Christianity. Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property may be symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect.”

Motivations for the crimes varied wildly; some were committed by juveniles or individuals struggling with mental illness, while others were driven by personal animus toward specific churches. Still others had political, ideological, or religious motivations.

Offenders apparently driven by transgender ideology include Nashville Covenant School shooter Audrey Hale, Cameron Storer’s arson of Portland Korean Church in Oregon, and churches defaced with messages such as “TRANS PWR” and “Stay gay, stay hard, Love is 4 everyone.”

Pro-abortion sentiment is a particularly strong driver of attacks on churches, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade, including arson cases, splattered red paint, graffiti messages such as “abortion is our human right,” and stolen or destroyed yard signs expressing opposition to pro-abortion ballot initiatives.

“Americans 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,” the report says. “Attacks on houses of worship may also signal a discomfort with religion in general.”

Yet another category identified by the report is attacks perpetrated by Muslim radicals, including a threat to Sacred Heart Church employees in New York by a man claiming to be part of the terrorist group Hamas, vandalism of an Armenian church in Massachusetts over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and vandalism of churches for supporting Israel.

At least 12 incidents included satanic imagery or symbols,” the report added, including items defaced with “666,” pentagrams and “Devil Has Risen” spray-painted on buildings, as well as messages such as “Lucifer Lives Here” and crosses turned upside down.

But perhaps the most alarming detail in the report is the relative lack of progress in holding perpetrators accountable and preventing repeats in the future. “Many acts of vandalism against churches were under criminal investigation,” it says, but only “a minority were under investigation as hate crimes. Police were often unable to identify the vandals.”

President Joe Biden’s “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.,” responded FRC president Tony Perkins, who said the White House’s whole-of-government opposition to biblical morality was “fomenting this environment of hostility toward churches.”

Earlier this month, FRC released another report that puts its latest findings in the context of a broader trend of religious persecution in the West. It documented 168 incidents of persecution or unfair discrimination against Christians across 16 Western countries between 2019 and 2023.