A new report has documented over 400 attacks on churches in 2023, more than double the number of incidents identified in 2022.

According to the Family Research Council’s (FRC) February 2024 edition of its Hostility Against Churches report, “the rise in hostility against U.S. churches that were identified in FRC’s inaugural December 2022 report has neither slowed nor plateaued; rather, it has accelerated rapidly.”

The report “identified 436 hostility incidents in 2023 – more than double the number identified in 2022 and more than eight times the number identified in 2018, the first year for which FRC collected data.”

FRC presented three “notable findings” from the document, including:

  • Over the past six years (2018-2023), FRC has identified 915 acts of hostility against U.S. churches. The types of acts identified included vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, and more.
  • In 2023, acts of hostility against churches took place in 48 states and the District of Columbia, with more occurring in states with larger populations. California had the most incidents, with 33. Texas had 28 incidents. Hawaii and Wyoming had none.
  • 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.

Following the report’s publication, Tony Perkins, FRC president and former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in a statement, “There is a common connection between the growing religious persecution abroad and the rapidly increasing hostility toward churches here at home: our government’s policies.” He added:

The indifference abroad to the fundamental freedom of religion is rivaled only by the increasing antagonism toward the moral absolutes taught by Bible-believing churches here in the U.S., which is fomenting this environment of hostility toward churches.

As Perkin’s correctly points out, many federal law enforcement agencies – including the DOJ and FBI – are far more interested in investigating and prosecuting innocent pro-life supporters than they are going after criminals who attack churches.

That fact is deeply problematic and unjust; instead, the DOJ and FBI should refocus their efforts to protect the First Amendment right of American Christian to freely exercise their religion.

“Although the motivations for many of these acts of hostility remain unknown, the effect is unmistakable: religious intimidation,” said Arielle Del Turco, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at FRC and author of the report. “They send the message that churches are not wanted in the community or respected in general.”

She added:

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.

We should all be concerned about the growing violence targeted at Christian churches in the United States, which was founded on the values of religious freedom and tolerance – but we should not be surprised or disheartened.

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount,

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” (Matthew 5:10-12, ESV).

In addition, the Apostle Peter wrote,

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14, ESV).

While we work and advocate for justice and peace in this life, we know that everlasting justice and peace will ultimately prevail in the life that’s yet to come.

To speak with a family help specialist or request resources, please call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).

You can listen to the Focus on the Family Broadcast, “Global Persecution and Your Faith,” where Rev. Johnnie Moore, an internationally-known advocate for religious freedom, describes the dangerous plight faced by Christ-followers living in nations hostile to Christianity. He encourages listeners to learn about this persecution, to pray for persecuted believers, and to support ministries that are helping Christians in need around the world.

Related articles and resources:

The Focused Pastor

Hundreds of Millions of Christians Facing Persecution Worldwide

Talking to Kids About the Persecuted Church

Global Persecution and Your Faith

Praying for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

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