Friday, March 22, 2019

Far-Right Violence Against Religion in the United States

Thanks to research by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism or START, we have a compilation of far-right fatal violence against religious institutions and individuals in the United States over the three decade period from 1990 to 2018.  

START's data is sourced from the United States Extremist Crime Database (ECDB).  This database includes open-source data on financial and violent crimes associated with far-right, far-left and al-Qaeda-influenced groups and movements and tracks criminal incidents committed by extremist groups and their supporters.  These crimes include attacks on law enforcement, abortion providers, ethnic and social groups which are then sorted according to the ideology of the criminals involved.  According to the ECDB, there have been over 217 ideologically motivated homicide incidents committed by far-right adherents in the United States over the period from 1990 to 2018.  Most of these attacks were committed by white supremacists against minority groups due to their perceived religious or racial background or sexual orientation with over half of all attacks relating to racial/ethnic identity.  A small percentage of attacks took place because the attacker believed that they were ideological enemies of the far-right ideology.

Here is a table showing the number of ideologically motivated homicides against religious institutions committed by far-right extremists over the period from January 1990 to October 2018:


Here is a graph showing the number of ideologically motivated homicides committed against religious institutions and individuals by white supremacists over the three decades:


Here is a graph showing the number of ideologically motivated homicides committed agains religious institutions and individuals by other far-right extremists over the three decades:


Here is a graph showing the number of ideologically motivated homicides committed agains religious institutions and individuals by white supremacists and far-right extremists over the three decades:


Far-right religious-based homicides that took place prior to 2018 have not been evenly distributed across the fifty states; most states had less than five ideological murders over the past 28 years.  In contrast, five states had more than ten far-right ideological homicides as follows:

California - 33
Texas - 21
Pennsylvania - 15
Florida - 14
Oregon - 11

While there is some correlation between state population and the number of religious-based ideological homicides such is not always the case as the state of New York had only six far-right connected homicides over the 28 year period.

Let's look at some details of the types of religious groups targeted by the far-right:

1.) Jewish individuals and institutions - over the 28 years, there were 11 ideologically motivated attacks that claimed 23 lives that purposely targeted people with actual or perceived Jewish identity.

2.) Other religious individuals and institutions - over the 28 years, there were 7 ideologically motivated attacks that claimed 29 lives that purposely targeted people with religious affiliations that were considered an affront to the far-right.  These included Muslims, Black church members and Christian churches that were theologically unacceptable to the far-right.

It is important to note that far-right extremists have had other ideological targets over the three decades including the deaths of 54 victims who were part of the justice system (i.e. on-duty police officers, officials of the justice system, security guards, judges, military personnel).  

This statistical analysis of ideologically-driven homicides that are directly connected to America's right-wing fringes provides us with a glimpse of the side of American society that few of us understand.  While the number of religious  ideologically-driven homicides is low compared to the total number of annual homicides in the United States, it is interesting to see how far some individuals are willing to go to protect their own viewpoint on American society and their version of Christianity.