The Family Research Council’s (FRC) newly released report documenting criminal acts against churches shows a three-fold increase in the number of hostile acts throughout the United States in the first three months of 2023.
A non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a family-centered philosophy in society, the FRC has been documenting hostile acts against churches for six years.
“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,” the report states (pdf).
The account describes “a sharp rise in acts of hostility against churches in the United States.” If the incidents continue to occur at the same rate, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents the FRC has tracked to date, it says.
From January through March of 2023, 69 acts of hostility against churches have been documented, with most of them occurring in January.
Twenty-nine states experienced acts of hostility against churches, with seven occurring in North Carolina and five each in Tennessee and Ohio.
Fifty-three acts of vandalism were documented, including theft, property destruction, and graffiti; 10 cases of arson or attempted arson (including fires with unknown causes); three gun-related incidents; three bomb threats; and two other incidents, including a knife attack.
Unexplained acts of destruction make up most of the acts of vandalism. These include the destruction of an outdoor nativity scene; rocks being thrown through windows, including 100-year-old stained-glass windows; and the destruction of musical instruments as well as sound and broadcasting equipment.
In some cases, hateful messages were left behind, including Satanic symbols.
According to the report, some incidents appeared to have been committed by youths or persons struggling with mental illness, while others were driven by anger towards the targeted church.
A 27-year-old male suspect who identified as female burned down a vacant church in Portland, Oregon in January, claiming that voices in his head threatened to mutilate him if he refused to burn the church down.
The FRC report also documents the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, as the Presbyterian elementary school is located on church property. A 28-year-old female former student, who identified as male, killed six people in the school on March 27 after carefully preparing the attack.
The third gun incident was a drive-by shooting in the parking lot of Praise Temple Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana in early March.
The FRC stated that it deplored “the anger and division that increasingly characterize American society,” which the organization feels is “endangering churches and eroding religious freedom.
“Violent or destructive incidences that interfere with an individual’s lawful free exercise of religion at their house of worship present a significant nationwide challenge,” the report concluded.
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