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A Republican congressman formally asked the Department of Justice on Wednesday to investigate the recent spike of vandalism against Catholic churches and religious icons in the United States.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging the DOJ “to continue to protect religious freedom and combat religious discrimination in the United States.”
“Today, I sent a letter to AG Barr urging the DOJ to protect religious freedom & combat religious discrimination in the U.S. My letter comes after numerous reports of vandalism at Catholic churches across the nation, including an incident in Chattanooga,” Fleischmann tweeted.
Today, I sent a letter to AG Barr urging the DOJ to protect religious freedom & combat religious discrimination in the U.S.
— Chuck Fleischmann (@RepChuck) August 5, 2020
Attached to his tweet was the letter, which reads in part:
Since June, there have been nearly a dozen reported attacks on Catholic churches around the nation. These disturbing attacks range from arson to the beheading of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
I find these attacks to be a disturbing trend, happening in multiple areas across the nation, including within my own congressional district.
In times of uncertainty we naturally turn to religion for comfort and peace, something many Americans are seeking as we combat COVID-19, but these attacks add another level of distress for many across our nation.
Fleischmann concluded by commending the DOJ’s commitment under Barr’s leadership to combatting religious discrimination.
Fleischmann expanded on his views to The Washington Examiner, saying, “These people who would desecrate any house of worship — whether it is a Catholic church or any other house of worship — need to know that it won’t be tolerated. And I think it rises to the level of a hate crime.”
“I would like to have a recognition that this problem exists, it persists, and sadly, it is not isolated to one city or one state,” Fleischmann continued. “I think it needs to be looked at very carefully and addressed for the danger that it is.”
Amid the vandalism of historical statues that has taken place this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death, houses of worship have not been spared. As The Daily Wire reported on July 13, “At least four Catholic churches in four states were vandalized over the weekend in a string of attacks that have authorities wondering whether religious icons and statues are next to be targeted by anti-racism and ‘anti-fascist’ protesters.”
Among those attacked that weekend was a statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to Bishop Rick Stika. Fleischmann responded to Stika, tweeting, “This is a disturbing attack on Catholicism and religion. Sadly, it is among a series of attacks on Catholic churches that have happened in recent days. I hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, but I also pray that they will find their way to God as well.”
This is a disturbing attack on Catholicism and religion.
Sadly, it is among a series of attacks on Catholic churches that have happened in recent days.
I hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, but I also pray that they will find their way to God as well. https://t.co/MFPHZhqn3h
— Chuck Fleischmann (@RepChuck) July 15, 2020
In April, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sent a similar letter to Barr, urging him to remain vigilant against potential religious discrimination in New York City, especially instances of anti-Semitism, after Mayor Bill de Blasio personally helped to disperse a Hasidic funeral in Brooklyn for the sake of social distancing.