Police in Buffalo, N.Y., have arrested and charged a man with a hate crime after he allegedly toppled over a statue of Mary in front of a Catholic church.
Michael Manns, 40, of Buffalo, was charged with criminal mischief designated as a hate crime after he allegedly pushed the statue over in what police say was a targeted attack in front of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
A video camera at the church recorded the incident. In the video, a man in tan pants and a dark shirt stands atop a brick wall and pushes the statue over before walking away. The statue landed in the bushes and has since been restored to its original spot, according to a Facebook post by a church supporter.
Craig E. Speers, director of the New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians District Two, said the incident caused thousands of dollars in damage. In an email to the police commissioner, he labeled it a “terrorist” attack that was meant to “instill fear in the faithful.”
“The incident has badly shaken our quiet community in North Buffalo,” Speers wrote, according to The Buffalo News.
The crime, which took place during daylight, was reported on June 29.
“During the course of the investigation, it was learned the Church was specifically targeted, elevating the crime to a hate crime,” police said.
Speers added, “It makes me feel very anxious and fearful for the safety of Catholic parishioners both in the area, the state and nationwide.”
Earlier this year, the Family Research Council released a report showing 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. The report was a follow-up to an earlier report that uncovered a total of 420 documented acts of hostility against 397 individual churches between January 2018 and September 2022.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Stephen Barnes
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.