Written by Don Byrd

Incidents of hate crimes based on religious bias rose by 22% in 2017, the third consecutive increase, according to a new FBI report issued earlier today. The 2017 Hate Crime Statistics were especially alarming with regard to anti-Semitic incidents, which made up more than half of the reported religion-based crimes, increased by more than 35% compared to 2016.

The Hill has more:

Attacks against Jewish people accounted for 58.1 percent of crimes motivated by anti-religious bias last year, a 4-percent increase from 2016, while anti-Muslim crimes were down.

Anti-Muslim offenses accounted for 24.8 percent of anti-religious hate crimes in 2016 compared with 18.7 percent in 2017. Anti-Islamic crimes continue to remain at historic levels, and anti-Arab hate crimes doubled to 102 incidents, Voice of America noted. 

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker issued this statement in response to the report:

This report is a call to action—and we will heed that call. The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes. They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans. I am particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes—which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States—that is well documented in this report. The American people can be assured that this Department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights.

This report brings home what we already know: too many religious observers in the United States, especially religious minorities, face violence at the hands of their fellow Americans because of their faith. If recent news is any indication, next year’s report could show yet another increase in anti-Semitic incidents during 2018. Americans of all faiths should speak out. Our country cannot claim to adequately champion and protect religious liberty while failing to protect adherents of Judaism and Islam from violent crime. The freedom of religion must include the freedom to live one’s faith peacefully without fear of persecution, harassment, and violence.