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Hate Crimes and Religious Intolerance

Hate crimes are defined by federal law as criminal acts motived by an assailant’s prejudice against the victim’s religion, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.  The FBI reports that religious intolerance accounts for about 20% of hate crimes reported by law enforcement authorities across the nation.

Religious Hate Crimes

Federal Cases (2012-2013)

The federal justice system handles only a portion of criminal cases in the United States, most of which are dealt with by state and local law enforcement authorities.  Below are updates of federal religious hate crime cases, as reported by the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

September 2012

  • Arson Attack on Islamic Center in Ohio

    On September 30, 2012, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo suffered an arson attack by an assailant who entered the building and set fire to the prayer room.  The resulting fire inflicted significant damage to the Center’s interior before being extinguished by the overhead sprinkler system.    Law enforcement authorities arrested Randolph Linn of Indiana three days later for the crime.  He faces federal hate crimes charges, as well as using explosives and a firearm while committing a felony.

  • Amish Extremists Convicted of Attacking other Amish

    On September 20, 2012, a federal jury convicted 16 Amish men and women for religiously motivated hate crimes against other members of the Amish faith.  The suspects stand convicted of using shears and electric razors to forcibly cut the beards and hair of Amish men with whom they had an ongoing religious dispute.  The crimes, which took place between September and November 2011, included home invasions and forcible restraint of the victims.

August 2012

  • Mass Shooting of Sikh Worshipers

    On August 5, Wade Michael Page opened fire with a 9mm handgun on worshipers at a Sikh temple in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  He killed six worshipers before being shot and wounded by police.  The wounded Page then shot and killed himself.   The 40-year-old assailant, who played guitar in a “white power” punk rock band, had a long association with rightwing extremist and white supremacist movements.

July 2012

  • Arson Attack against Kansas Mosque

    On July 4, an unidentified assailant threw an ignited object at the Islamic Center of Joplin, Kansas, causing a fire on the roof of the building.  The Joplin Fire Department extinguished the fire before it could penetrate the building and cause interior damage.  The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have offered a combined reward of $50,000 for information about the assailant and any others connected to the crime.  A month after the arson attack, on August 6, a fire of unknown causes destroyed the Islamic Center, which was vacant at the time.  Federal authorities opened an investigation into the fire.

June 2012

  • Indictment for Bomb Threat against Tennessee Mosque

    On June 21, a federal grand jury indicted Javier Alan Correa of Texas for threatening to bomb a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  According to authorities, the accused called the Murfreesboro Islamic Center on September 5, 2011 and left a voice-mail message claiming that “on September 11, 2011, there’s going to be a bomb in the building.”  Correa is charged with obstructing the free exercise of religion by threat of force and with threatening, via an instrument of interstate commerce (a cell phone), to destroy a building with explosives.  He faces a maximum of sentence of 30 years if convicted.

March 2012

  • Indictment for Arson Attacks on Religious Minorities

    On March 19, 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Ray Lazier Lengend for a series of fire-bombings in New York, including attacks on the Imam Al- Khoei Foundation mosque and a Hindu temple housed in a private residence.  Lengend is charged with committing felony hate crimes and illegal use of explosives.  He faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

  • Neo-Nazi Prison Inmate Sentenced for Attacking Jewish Cellmate

    On March 5, 2012, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced Timothy Lee York, a self-proclaimed member of the United Aryan Brotherhood, to 63 months in prison for attacking his cellmate with a deadly weapon.  York, who was serving a 41-year prison sentence in Texas for attacking a courthouse with a Molotov cocktail, admitted to attacking his sleeping cellmate because the cellmate was Jewish.

January 2012

  • Three Sentenced for Hate Crime against African-American Church

    On January 18, 2012, a federal judge handed down final sentencing for an arson attack against the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American church in Springfield, Massachusetts.  In November 2008, three co-conspirators burned down the church hours after Barack Obama was elected President.  The three assailants were sentenced to 14 years, nine years, and four and half years, respectively.