Report Indicates Growing Hostility Against US Churches

Report Indicates Growing Hostility Against US Churches

According to an updated report from the Family Research Council (FRC), there’s been an increase in criminal attacks on U.S. churches in the first quarter of 2023.

Titled “Hostility Against Churches: Supplemental Report—First Quarter 2023,” the report states: “The first three months of 2023 saw approximately three times the number of acts of hostility perpetrated against churches in the same timeframe last year.” These hostile incidents include arson or arson attempts, bomb threats, gun-related violence and more.

From January to March, 69 incidents occurred in 29 states, including 53 acts of vandalism.

“Our research indicates that number [69] is more than the entirety of 2018, in which we identified only 50 incidents, or 2020, in which we identified 54,” the report says. “This steep increase is a cause for concern.”

In January alone, 43 acts of violence against American churches were recorded. There were 14 more in February and another 12 in March. North Carolina faced the most frequent hostility with seven criminal acts.

“If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked, continuing the upward trend,” the report says. For example, FRC found 191 incidents in 2022, more than double the 96 occurrences in 2021.

Topping the report was the deadly shooting on March 27 at The Covenant School, which shares property with Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter killed three children and three adults after breaking through glass side doors to gain access to the building—which includes the church office and children’s ministry.

The report mentioned multiple other examples of radical violence against American churches, including one that occurred at Dellabrook Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Valentine’s Day. Intruders sprayed a fire extinguisher inside the church, which resulted in an estimated $40,000 in damages.

“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, who drafted 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 motivations for some of these acts of vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, or other acts appear political while many more seem completely inexplicable,” she added. “Yet, all of these incidents 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.”

While the latest findings are discouraging, Scripture gives hope amid persecution.

As Matthew 5:10-12 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (ESV).

The original FRC report was compiled from public data and released in December 2022.

The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Photo: Camden Hall / Alamy News Live

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