Nearly 300 Catholic churches have faced attacks in the US over the past three years, according to a new report.
Data collected from CatholicVote (CV) has found that at least 278 churches in America have come under attack since May 2020.
While civil unrest erupted throughout the country and worldwide following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in May 2020, the Catholic advocacy group claims the "attacks on Catholic churches have continued and escalated," with some incidents involving arson, statue beheading, satanic graffiti and smashed windows.
The majority of the attacks appear to be vandalism "driven by animosity directed specifically at Catholics" rather than petty theft according to CV.
The organization links a further spike in violence to the leak of the Supreme Court's draft proposal to overturn Roe V Wade - the legislation to protect the right to choose to have an abortion, with 121 attacks taking place since May 2022.
The incidents have taken place across 42 different states with California seeing the highest number of attacks (42), followed by New York (28) and Pennsylvania (19).
According to the charity, only 25 per cent of incidents have resulted in an arrest being made. In December 2021, the advocacy group wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Merrick Garland calling on them to launch investigations into the attacks.
Citing some 114 instances across the country since May 2020, CV condemned leaders for failing to make "meaningful effort to raise awareness or address the disturbing rise in hate-filled attacks on Catholic religious symbols, shrines, statues and churches."
"I am writing to voice our concerns over the disturbing increase in attacks against Catholic symbols, shrines, statues and churches across the United States over the past year. We ask that the Department of Justice investigate these complaints and take appropriate action," CV president Brian Burch wrote.
“The vandalism we are seeing today is quickly rising to levels that haven’t been seen since the late 1800’s and early 1900’s from organized groups such as the Know-Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan.”
In response, the DOJ launched a 15-day review to ensure that "all appropriate resources are being deployed to protect houses of worship.” It noted hate crime cases and its commitment to "address such violence, consistent with our commitment to combat unlawful acts of hate in all their forms."
As yet, further details of its ongoing investigations have not been shared.