The first three months of 2023 saw a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on churches nationwide compared to the same timeframe last year, according to a new report that found such attacks took place in nearly 30 states.
The report by the Family Research Council found 69 acts of hostility against churches between January and March – approximately three times the number that was recorded during the first three months of 2022. Such acts of hostility include vandalism, arson, bomb threats and gun-related violence. Among the 69 attacks on churches: the mass shooting at The Covenant School, which is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville.
The report noted that if the rate continues, 2023 “will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked.” A total of 29 states experienced attacks on churches.
“The problem of acts of hostility against churches in the United States is widespread and growing,” said Arielle Del Turco, FRC's director of the center for religious liberty and author of the report. “Increasing anger and frustration directed at church buildings points to a larger spiritual battle and a growing climate of hostility toward Christianity.”
The incidents, Del Turco added, “represent a deeply concerning trend and have the potential to be intimidating.”
“In response, Americans should be united in our affirmation of religious freedom and the ability of all people to worship and live out their faith freely – without fear that their church or religious community will be targeted,” Del Turco said.
Acts of vandalism comprised the majority of reported attacks on churches in the first three months of 2023. In Memphis, vandals broke into Holy Nation Church and “smashed the stained-glass windows” and stole equipment, the report said. In Winston-Salem, N.C., vandals broke into the Dellabrook Presbyterian Church and sprayed a fire extinguisher all over the church, causing $40,000 in damage. In Austin, Texas, Goodwill Baptist Church was set ablaze.
“The anger and division that increasingly characterize American society are endangering churches and eroding religious freedom,” the report said. “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. Violent or destructive incidents that interfere with an individual’s lawful free exercise of religion at their house of worship present a significant nationwide challenge.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Drew Buzz
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-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.