Measure passes after over 400 churches, entities targeted with violence over past five years
By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Nearly all U.S. House Democrats voted against a resolution condemning attacks against anti-abortion facilities and churches. The vote came after a report was published showing violence escalated against churches and pro-life groups last year ahead of and after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The House passed the measure 222 to 219 Wednesday mostly along party lines. Three Democrats voted for it: Reps. Vicente Gonzalez of south Texas, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington.
The resolution “condemns recent attacks of vandalism, violence, and destruction against pro-life facilities, groups and churches” and “calls upon the Biden Administration to use all appropriate law enforcement authorities to uphold public safety and to protect the rights of pro-life facilities, groups, and churches.”
There have been at least 420 hostile acts committed against primarily churches in America over the past five years, according to the report published by the Family Research Council.
The Washington, D.C.-based Christian public policy advocacy organization analyzed publicly available data from January 2018 to September 2022 and reported that it identified at least 420 acts of hostility against American churches in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The greatest number occurred in California and Texas, the two most populous states. None were reported in Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Vermont, according to the report.
Overall, 57 “pro-abortion acts of hostility” against churches were identified, with violence increasing last year from January to September leading up to and after the Supreme Court decision. Concerned by increasing attacks on pregnancy centers and churches, 19 attorneys general last June called on the Department of Justice to investigate.
The FRC report, “Hostility Against Churches Is on the Rise in the United States,” shows a trend of increasing hostility against churches over the past five years that includes arson and arson attempts, assaults, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, among others.
Increased incidents of vandalism, including destruction and defacement of property, ransacking, theft, and destruction of church property were “likely symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion – in this case, churches and Christianity,” the report states.
“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.”
Many Democrats who opposed the resolution said they did so because it did not also condemn attacks against abortion facilities.
“This resolution fails to acknowledge decades of well-documented violence against reproductive health care providers in this country, and in failing to do so, it fails us all,” Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Texas said, according to The Hill.
Of the attacks on churches and pro-life facilities, there were 342 occurrences of vandalism, 58 arson attacks or attempts, 12 gun-related incidents, 11 bomb threats, and 19 others, including assault, threats, interruption of worship services, among others. Another 20 covered more than one category.
Of the 420 incidents, California had the most with 51, followed by 33 in Texas, 31 in New York and 23 in Florida.
The analysis was published after the FBI reported 240 anti-Christian “hate crimes” had been recorded in its Uniform Crime Reporting Program in 2021, up from 213 in 2020, 217 in 2019 and 172 in 2018.
FBI data was consistent with the FRC findings. In 2018, FRC found 50 acts of hostility committed against churches; from January to September 2022, it found 137.
The report notes that such acts of violence “are a matter of religious freedom. Religious freedom is not maintained by good laws and policy alone: it also relies on cultural support.”
FRC President Tony Perkins has called on the Biden Administration to better protect churches and religious freedom, noting, “the Biden Department of Justice has so far largely ignored these growing attacks on churches and that is creating an environment of lawlessness around the country.”
He added, “Christians must not live in fear. We must not be intimidated; we must continue to stand upon the truth of God and defending the freedom of all to live out their faith free from the fear that they will be subject to a violent attack.”