Alarming: Attacks on U.S. Churches More Than Doubled in 2023, Report Finds

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The number of hostile actions against churches more than doubled in 2023, according to a major new report that suggests the data could point to a “collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship” that comes from the “marginalizing” of core Christian beliefs.

The “Hostility Against Churches” report, released this week by the Family Research Council, uncovered 436 acts of hostility against churches from January through November 2023 compared to 195 in 2022. Attacks on churches have been on the rise for at least years, according to the data. There were 96 in 2021, 55 in 2020, 83 in 2019 and 50 in 2018.

FRC initially released a report on the issue in December 2022. Since then, the problem has only grown worse. 

“Although the motivations for many of these incidents remain unknown, the rise in crimes against churches is taking place in a context in which American culture appears increasingly hostile to Christianity,” the report said. “Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property may be symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion — in this case, churches and Christianity. 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. Attacks on houses of worship may also signal a discomfort with religion in general.”

Examples of attacks on churches in 2023 include: 

  • Vandals breaking into Greater Tabernacle Worship Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and causing $15,000 worth of damage.
  • An individual/individuals spray painting a monument to unborn children at St. Rosalia Church in Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Looters spray painting “abortion is our human right” on the property at Second Baptist Church in Palermo, Maine.

Some of the attacks involved progressive-leaning churches, such as the tearing down of Pride flags by vandals on church properties, according to the report. 

Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at FRC and author of the report, said the motivations for many of the acts may be unknown, but the “effect is unmistakable: religious intimidation.”

“They send the message that churches are not wanted in the community or respected in general,” Del Turco said. “Our culture is demonstrating a growing disdain for Christianity and core Christian beliefs, and acts of hostility against churches could be a physical manifestation of that. Regardless of the motivations of these crimes, everyone should treat churches and all houses of worship with respect and affirm the importance of religious freedom for all Americans.”

Image Credit: NeOnbrand/Unsplash 

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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