cross and cloudsWritten by Don Byrd

The news over the last week has included too many frightening examples of religion-based violence and intimidation. In addition to the numerous reported incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in the wake of the election, several Muslim-American women have reported being harassed and even assaulted for wearing a hijab. The Southern Poverty Law Center has collected hundreds of hate crime reports since November 8 and classified a large number of them to be anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic.

While these are based on anecdotal reports, we now have statistical indications that the upward trend in religion-based hate crimes began before this year’s election. Via Religion Clause, A new FBI report of hate crimes in 2015 shows a 23% increase in religion-based incidents from 2014 to 2015, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s analysis. Such events comprised nearly 20% of the hate crimes the agency chronicled for the year.

Even one hate crime incident based upon religion is one too many. And it is not just a statistic. Victims of religious intimidation and violence and their families suffer greatly; their religious communities too feel the fear and isolation that accompany an incident targeting one of their adherents because of their faith.

With anecdotal and statistical evidence that such crimes are on the increase, we who believe in religious liberty for all must stand together in support of Americans of all faiths. And we must demand that our government agencies investigate, prosecute, and otherwise take seriously these crimes. When the religious liberty of anyone is jeopardized, the religious liberty of all is in jeopardy.