by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the chaotic year of 2020, anti-religious activists have learned that the best place to hide is in a crowd. With news cycles crowded by COVID-19, nationwide protests and riots, a contentious election, and much more, such activists were given perfect cover to vandalize houses of worship across America while drawing little criticism from secular media or public officials. These tragic acts of vandalism matter, however, and the motives behind them deserve examination.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently reported at least 39 incidents of vandalism on Catholic Church property since June 22. This alarming number makes sense given the Catholic Church’s history of statuary and the frequent targeting of statues in this year’s riots.
In addition to incidents such as satanic graffiti on a church in Connecticut, and a Florida man driving his van into a church before lighting the vehicle on fire, numerous church statues of Jesus, Mary, saints, and even a monument for children killed by abortion have been toppled, beheaded, and graffitied. That’s not all. The many incidents on church property detailed by the Conference of Catholic Bishops don’t account for the numerous statues of Catholic saints on public property that have been vandalized, too.
In St. Louis, large groups of sometimes-violent protesters graffitied the prominent public statue of St. Louis (King Louis IX), the city’s namesake, who frequently shared meals with beggars and ministered to other outcasts such as lepers, the blind, and even prostitutes.
The violence went further in California. Protesters destroyed a statue of St. Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary who founded many historic churches (one of which was largely burned down in July) and evangelized thousands of Native Americans. Additionally, as Pope Francis noted when he canonized Serra in 2015, “Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”