Last Updated September 28, 2023
CV NEWS FEED // As civil unrest gripped the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Catholic churches were not exempt from mobs that destroyed property in cities across America. But while the riots and looting mostly died down in the summer of 2020, the attacks on Catholic churches have continued and escalated.
Since civil unrest began on May 28, 2020, there have been at least 361 attacks against Catholic churches in the United States, including acts of arson which damaged or destroyed historic churches; spray-painting and graffiti of satanic messages; rocks and bricks thrown through windows; statues destroyed (often with heads cut off); and illegal disruptions of Mass. A new spate of at least 196 attacks has occurred since the draft Supreme Court opinion proposing to reverse Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May 2022, with many including graffiti with pro-abortion messages. Crucially, while a handful of the attacks have included thefts, the vast majority have only involved property destruction, indicating that the primary motive is not material gain.
The attacks on Catholic churches have been widespread across the country, affecting 42 states plus DC. The states with the most attacks are California (49), New York (38), Pennsylvania (21), Texas (18), Colorado (17), New Jersey (16), Florida (15), Massachusetts (14), Washington (12), Oregon (12), and Michigan (11). Hotspots with large clusters of attacks include New York City (31) and the metro areas of Los Angeles (17); Denver (15); San Francisco/Bay Area (11); Philadelphia (11); Washington, D.C. (10); Boston (10); Portland, Oregon (10); Seattle (8); Chicago (7); Miami/Fort Lauderdale (6); and Houston (5). Some of the churches have been attacked multiple times.
CatholicVote has found evidence of an arrest in connection with an attack against a church in only about 25% of cases.
The Biden administration has thus far refused to act to protect Catholic churches and stop these acts of domestic terrorism. In December 2021, CatholicVote sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling on them to act, pointing to a federal statute which requires the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute such crimes.
“The vandalism we are seeing today is quickly rising to levels that haven’t been seen since the late 1800’s and early 1900’s from organized groups such as the Know-Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan,” CatholicVote president Brian Burch wrote. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta replied in a January 2022 letter promising a “15-day review to ensure that all appropriate resources are being deployed to protect houses of worship,” but since then, there has been no evidence of specific action taken by DOJ, and the attacks have continued.
A new wave of attacks against Catholic churches began in the wake of the Supreme Court opinion leak in May 2022. Burch renewed his call to Garland and DOJ to enforce federal law and prosecute the attacks. Neither Garland nor the DOJ appear to have taken any specific action, and there have been no federal prosecutions in any of the cases, even though attacking a place of worship is a federal crime.
According to a report in June 2022, the Department of Homeland Security has privately warned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops of “credible threats” against Catholic churches and clergy after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A bulletin from the National Terrorism Advisory System issued in June 2022 warned that it expects the “the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets”, including “faith-based institutions” and “houses of worship”. The attacks accelerated after the Supreme Court issued its final ruling overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
In January 2023, CatholicVote sent a letter to U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) urging him to use the committee’s powers to open an investigation into the Biden Department of Justice’s failure to act against these acts of hatred.
The attacks have continued unabated, with no signs of slowing down; there have been 77 attacks against Catholic churches so far in 2023.
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The full spreadsheet database of the attacks may be viewed here.
Notes: This tracker includes all reported acts of vandalism and violence against churches since May 28, 2020. Nearly all reports are sourced from news agencies, while a handful have been reported directly to CatholicVote, with documentation, via email. Thefts of holy objects including tabernacles and statues are included, but thefts of cash, copper, and other cases where the motive appears to be purely material gain are not included.
This post will be updated as news develops. If you are aware of an attack not found in the map, please email details and any photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.