Just 10 days ago, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Religious Freedom Presidency joined with interfaith leaders and called for better protection of churches following last summer’s vandalism in many places of worship.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Oct. 5, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami called for a quadrupling of funding for a federal security grant program for nonprofits.
A statement informing reporters of the request, sent along with a copy of the letter to newsrooms across the country, read the following:
This program provides grants to non-profit organizations and places of worship to improve security through improved infrastructure, funding for emergency planning and training, upgrading of systems security and some renovation projects. Although the program has been popular, the lack of funding has prompted many grant applicants to be turned down in 2019. The coalition is calling on Congress to quadruple the total program funding to $ 360 million. From the letter:
“Each of our communities believes that respect for human dignity goes through respect for religious freedom. We believe that protecting the ability of all Americans to live out their faith without fear or harm is one of the most important duties of the federal government. … These security grants benefit people of all faiths. In an era of growing extremism and antagonism towards different religious groups and religion in general, we believe that a significant increase in funding for this important government program in fiscal year 2021 is imperative. “
Other groups joining the letter include the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Council of Muslim Organizations, the Lutheran Center for Religious Freedom, the Jewish Federations of America. North, the National Council of Churches in Christ in the United States, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations, Agudath Israel of America, and The Episcopal Church.
FBI statistics cited in the letter indicate that 1,244 hate crimes were committed in 2018 against members of various faiths in the United States. The letter also follows a series of attacks on Catholic churches and statues across the United States. The acts of vandalism have been largely ignored by the mainstream secular press.
The letter was the last beat in this ongoing story which was also ignored.
By comparison, media coverage of Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith has come close to fixation in recent weeks. A Google News search details the long list of stories that have been written so far.
Meanwhile, the only news outlets that reported on the anti-vandalism letter were religious news sites, the type of which I’ve praised in the past for being indispensable for those who want to know what’s going on. in the church and, often, the wider world of religion news.
Catholic News Agency reported in the letter, adding the following context to their news account:
While Catholic churches and other places of worship have been vandalized or attacked in recent years, including deadly shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and California in 2018 and 2019, attacks have been reported across the country during summer and fall.
In September, for example, statues were overturned and destroyed in churches and cathedrals in Utah, New York and Texas. Arson has been suspected, investigated or determined in churches in Florida, Boston and California over the summer, and statues from other churches have been vandalized in Tennessee, California and Colorado.
According to a recent EWTN News / RealClear Opinion Research poll, more than 60% of Catholics polled said they were “very concerned” about vandalism of churches.
Christian Post also reported on the letter. Here’s how they opened this report:
A diverse coalition of religious leaders has called on Congress to increase funding for a government security program for nonprofits amid a wave of vandalism on church property.
In a letter sent to members of Congress on Monday, the coalition called for more funds to be directed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nonprofit security grant program.
The letter said that this year around $ 90 million had been made available to nonprofits to pay for various security upgrades. The coalition asked for an increase to $ 360 million.
The proposed amount would be split in half, with $ 180 million for the non-profit security grants program under the Urban Safety Initiative and $ 180 million for the security grants program. non-profit as part of the State Homeland Security Grants Program.
That was basically it, in terms of media coverage.
It’s pretty astonishing how little attention the attacks received last summer (and the few others that took place this fall), but the fact that this letter does not receive mainstream coverage is telling. Whether this omission is intentional or not, it’s a clear sign that too many professionals in secular newsrooms don’t see the problem with desecration of churches.
Two months ago, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, called on US Attorney General William Barr to redouble his efforts to end the attacks.
“The tendency to desecrate Catholic land and property must end,” Kennedy wrote. “I hope you are actively working to identify and prosecute those who committed these destructive acts. I also ask you to focus your efforts on preventing such violence both against Catholics and against property. “
We know that the press is interested in Catholicism when it comes to Barrett’s appointment. The confirmation hearings, which take place this week, follow weeks of media coverage regarding Barrett’s membership in a charismatic group called People of Praise. The coverage was, let’s just say, not quite right. (Click here for a recent update from GetReligion on this, with links to several articles.)
Meanwhile, a California cathedral was recently disfigured with swastikas, an upside down cross and “Biden 2020” spray painted on the front.
“This morning our beloved cathedral was disfigured by pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc. It reminds us to pray for my brothers in Iraq who are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this, ”the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of St. Peter of El Cajon said in a statement posted on Facebook on September 26.
But the lack of media coverage around these anti-Christian attacks only fuels the feeling that these journalists are engaging in some form of fake news (click here for a discussion on this complicated topic).
This is something President Donald Trump has exploited to his advantage over the past four years within his Republican base. His Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, uses his Catholic faith as an asset. “Believers for Biden” has been very active in the digital space, but the campaign has also been silent when it comes to vandalism.
This is news. Period. Where’s the blanket?