Rise in Attacks on Religious Institutions and Lack of Good Security –A Warning

By Stephen Bryen

Not all attacks on faith based institutions –churches, synagogues, mosques, temples that also include schools, offices and organizations– are based on hate.   But there isn’t any doubt that the rise in hate crimes is taking a toll on all of them.

The usual targets line up as black churches and schools, Jewish synagogues, community centers and schools, Protestant churches (a variety of denominations) and Catholic churches.  Unlike the past, there has been a significant rise in attacks on catholic churches in the United States and abroad. There also are numerous attacks on Mosques in the United States, in the UK, France and Germany and in Canada.  

Many of the assaults on faith based institutions have shown in the form of hate vandalism including desecration of religious objects such as statues, crosses, Torahs.  In a great number of cases graffiti has been used promoting satanic cults, hate messages and Nazi and other hate symbols.

Increasingly incendiaries –firebombing of religious institutions has increased exponentially in the past year. On nearly a daily basis churches are set on fire, mosques firebombed and synagogues attacked.  I track all of these on a Facebook page devoted exclusively to the security of holy places.  You can find the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SECHOLYPLACES.  I think this is the only North America-based resource for those concerned with holy places security.

Along with the generic hatred that resides embedded in our society and is growing, there are plenty of organizations that promote religious hatred on both “ends” of the political spectrum.  This includes White Supremacist groups and leftist groups like ANTIFA.  Often these attacks are public, not hidden, so the perpetrators are out in the open.  Surprisingly few of them have been arrested, and many that have been taken into custody are given minimal fines or are just released without bail or trial.

Along with hate crimes there are a rash of intrusions and burglaries of holy places.  There is no report on how many such incidents take places, but in the last year the number is likely to be in the many thousands.  Most of these are just theft –stealing valuable items such as computers, PA systems, even cash.  There are even a couple of reports where church vans have had their catalytic converters taken from vehicles.

People are not safe either.  While most religious institutions are under COVID-19 restrictions, limiting congregational size or closing the church, synagogue or mosque — individuals in and around these sites have been attacked and, in a few case, murdered.  In Toronto Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, a Mosque caretaker who also acted as a guard at the Rexdale Mosque in that city, was stabbed to death in September.

In many other cities there have been numerous incidents where religious people walking near the church, synagogue or mosque building have been attacked, harassed, chased and in some cases seriously hurt.

Without good security these incidents will, unfortunately,  continue to rise.

Eight months ago I posted a video that warned about the risks to religious institutions after the COVID-19 lockdowns started.

The video urged religious organizations to take security seriously even when buildings were empty.

I would like to be able to say that the video received wide circulation and had some influence, but it did not.  In fact, it is clearly the case that the vast majority of churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have either no security at all, or very poor security.  Many that try often get the solution wrong and rely on CCTV cameras and burglar alarms.  CCTV cameras almost never catch a crime in progress –they are generally valuable forensically after a crime has been committed.  Burglar alarms do little or nothing to protect against fire bombings, desecration or other crimes because the response is too slow even where the burglar alarm company informs the police.

The best immediate solution are full time building guards.  While guards involve cost, the Federal government is now supporting hiring guards under its Faith Based and Community Initiative.  This is a big help –its main defect is it takes a long time to get the award approved and even a longer time to get the money to implement a security program –more than one year and closer to two years in most cases.  This is hardly satisfactory and it is how even well-meaning programs can be thwarted by bureaucrats.

One hopes this warning will be taken seriously and security measures put in place.

My New Book

Here is an interview for my new book, Security for Holy Places.  The interview was conducted by the publisher, Morgan James.