New data has revealed an upward trend in criminal acts towards American churches over the past few years, with attacks surging to new highs in the first quarter of 2023.
Family Research Council (FRC), which uses public data to measure the trends in acts of hostility against US churches, warns that society is losing respect for houses of worship.
Its most recent Hostility Against Churches report found that the number of incidents within the first three months of 2023 was approximately three times higher than that of the previous year.
The FRC’s December study identified 420 incidents, including vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats between January 2018 and September 2022, with the frequency of attacks increasing throughout the reporting period. Ninety-six incidents were identified in 2021, which nearly doubled in 2022, totalling 191 over the year.
FRC’s latest research revealed that 69 incidents have already occurred in 2023. During the same months, 2018 saw 15 acts of hostility against churches; 2019 saw 12; 2020 saw none; 2021 saw 14; and 2022 saw 24.
“If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked,” the report said.
FRC argues that these increasing acts of hostility towards churches in America are “symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect” for 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,” the FRC report said.
One of the incidents acknowledged in the report was the March 2023 shooting at The Covenant School, a Christian school ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Nashville in which three children and three adults were killed by a former student.
The FRC warns that “anger and division” across American society endangers churches and erodes religious freedom.
“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.”
In the first quarter of 2023, 29 states experienced acts of hostility against churches. North Carolina had the most incidents, with seven, while Ohio and Tennessee each had five and Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania had four.