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Religiously motivated violence

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Murders in churches: are
Christians being targeted?

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Overview:

High levels of fear are circulating within the Christian community. This is nothing new, particularly among those Christians who interpret the Bible literally. They have always been concerned over whether they and their loved ones will make it into Heaven, or be punished eternally in Hell. However, more recently, some believe that major persecution of churches in North American is imminent, and may already have started.

There have been fears that their pastors will be thrown into jail for simply reading the Bible in church, if the proposed hate-crimes legislation is passed. Fortunately, at least this concern appear to be groundless. It became law during 2009-OCT. No charges have been made under this law for hate speech, and none are ever likely.

Many Christian leaders say that they have already detected ominous signs of a serious increase in religious hate crime -- the assassination of Christians across the U.S., presumably by non-Christians bent on exterminating Christianity. They feel that conservative Christians in particular are being directly targeted. 

This essay examines recent murders that have occurred either:

bulletInside or in front of Christian churches, or
bulletMotivated by religious hatred.

We have also included a mass murder at a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church. Only about 15% of UUs consider themselves to be Christians and almost no fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians consider UUs to be fellow Christians. However, there are so many similarities to other murders involving Christian churches that we have included this mass murder with the rest.

Conclusions:

We have tentatively concluded, on the basis of the relatively few events that have occurred, that:

bulletAlmost all of the murder victims in churches and other religious buildings are conservative Protestants.
bulletMost of the perpetrators are also conservative Protestants.
bulletNo general targeting of Christians is taking place in the U.S. (unlike other countries in the world).
bulletAmerican churches, like its schools, are relatively safe places. There have been 18 murders over the past 9 years in or at churches. This compares to approximately a quarter million homicides at other locations during the same interval.

As of 2009-SEP the two most recent murders at churches were:

bulletA mass church killing during 2008 in a non-Christian sanctuary -- the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville TN. The perpetrator was a person who objected to the faith group's liberal views in general and their attitude towards homosexuals in particular.
 
bulletThe 2009 assassination of Dr. George TIller, an abortion provider, in Reformation Lutheran Church, in Kansas City, KS.

Topics in this section:

bulletRecent killings in or at American churches:
bullet1974 to 1999-JUL: Atlanta, GA; Daingerfield, TX; Gonzales, LA, Bloomington, IN.
 
bullet1999-SEP to 2003: Ft. Worth, TX; Rochester Hills, MI;
 
bullet2007: Arvada & Colorado Springs, CO.
bulletBackground of perpetrator Matthew Murray

bullet2008: Knoxville, TN
bulletPublic comments on media articles about the Knoxville murders
 
bullet2009: Wichita, KS
 
bulletAnalysis of killings:
bulletAre Christians being targeted?; More detailed study of some murders of Christians; Conclusions

Related essays on this web site:

bulletSchool shootings in North America
bulletWhy did the Columbine / Littleton CO tragedy happen?
bulletReligious intolerance and related topics

Site navigation: Home > Religious violence > here

Home page > Christianity > Christian history, beliefs... > here

Copyright © 1999 to 2009, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally posted: 1999-SEP-28 
Latest update: 2009-JUN-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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