New FBI statistics on hate crimes show a nine percent increase in crimes against religious groups in 2008 and an almost 25 percent increase in reported hate crimes against Catholics.
Last year there were 1,519 incidents classified as hate crimes based on a victim’s religion, USA Today reports. Anti-Jewish attacks made up nearly two of every six incidents, but there were 75 such crimes against Catholics. This is an increase from 61 in 2007.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights told USA Today that he had never seen the country so culturally divided and polarized.
Speaking in more detail with CNA, he remarked that increased outspokenness among Catholic bishops and laity may have caused some retaliation.
“Lay Catholics are following the energy from the bishops who are becoming more vocal than they have been,” he commented.
In Donohue’s view, same-sex “marriage,” abortion, and protections conscientious objections are particular issues of public controversy.
“Proposition 8 in California last November led to violence against Catholics – many who were Latinos,” Donohue commented, referring to the successful California ballot measure which restored the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.
“You have to accept that there are some nasty things done, but you can't let that scare you. They want to intimidate people of faith.”
Donohue said he thinks the culture is “at a turning point.”
“I see no way around it than to continue speaking out.”