Sharp increase in the number of attacks on churches in the United States during the first quarter of 2023
The Family Research Council (FRC) has documented 69 attacks on Christian places of worship in the United States in the first three months of this year. The figures are on the rise and could break the 2022 record which already far exceeded that of 2021.
The murder of six people, including three children, in a Presbyterian church by a transgender person on March 27 is one of the avatars of the attacks against Christians in the United States. The author of the killing intended to strike a Christian establishment, a symbol in a country where 65% of the inhabitants declare themselves Christians. This strong numerical importance of Christianity in the United States is increasingly disputed; and if the figures are still very low compared to the number of places of worship, they are constantly growing. As in its previous reports, the FRC identifies for the period from January to March inclusive acts such as "vandalism, arson, firearm incidents, bomb threats and hostility to churches".
The report identifies 53 acts of vandalism in the first quarter, 10 arson, attempted arson or fire of unknown origin, three incidents involving a firearm, three bomb threats. In addition to these 69 cases, the report mentions two other minor incidents such as assault. These cases took place in 29 states, the most affected being North Carolina with seven cases, ahead of Ohio and Tennessee with five each.
Arriving at Holy Nation Church in Memphis, Tennessee, to prepare for worship the next day, pastor Andrew Perpener discovered the ransacked place of worship early January, for the second time in less than a month. The windows had been damaged, equipment stolen, the vending machines for drinks and snacks had been ransacked, the fire extinguishers had been emptied in the congregation's gymnasium. In this last space, the faithful were able to deplore the presence of gang tags. The pastor said he plans to install cameras, a first in 17 years. According to him, these attacks "are only a sign of the times", and he believes that he must do more to reach young people.
At the beginning of February, the premises and equipment of the congregation Jesus is Alive World Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, suffered acts of vandalism costing at least 70 euros according to Pastor Isaiah Adio. The stained glass windows were hit, the television set destroyed, the keys of the pianos broken, sound equipment and chairs were thrown.
Violence also linked to the issue of abortion and Black Lives Matter
The motivations are diverse, it is violence committed by mentally ill people, but also theft, even acts that are the subject of criminal investigations for hate crimes according to American law, that is to say specifically targeting Christians, with some targeting these particular congregations. In the previous report for the period from January 2018 to December 2022, the FRC had mentioned attacks motivated by the change in Supreme Court jurisprudence that abortion is not a federal right.
The leak of the Supreme Court's draft ruling on May 2, 2022 was followed by an increase in pro-abortion graffiti on Christian buildings. While only five incidents related to abortion had been listed between 2019 and 2021, the investigators noted 57 from January to September 2022 inclusive. Six violent acts have been linked to the death of George Floyd or Black Lives Matter.
Compared to the 420 hostile acts targeting churches between January 2018 and December 2022, the 69 incidents recorded in the last quarter indicate a sharp increase in property crimes. In 2019, 83 incidents were recorded, compared to 54 in 2020, but their number has since grown with 96 in 2021. There were double the number with 191 in 2022, a year when there were as many attacks in the first quarter as for all of 2021. The year 2023 could easily exceed this record.
For the FRC, this growing violence indicates “a broader societal problem of marginalization of fundamental Christian beliefs […] The anger and division that increasingly characterize American society endangers churches and erodes religious freedom.” The organization believes that, therefore, "the ability to live one's faith in complete safety is threatened".