The Persecution Continuum: Vandalizing Churches

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Deacon Greg Kandra had the story of churches that were vandalized in Brooklyn this week. The police have already arrested a suspect and charged him with a hate crime.

That is exactly the right charge. The increasingly widespread vandalizing of churches is indeed a hate crime. Where is this rise of hatred directed at people of faith in general and Christians in particular coming from?

I believe it is inspired by the virulent anti-Christian ethos in our halls of higher education, the mass media, and at least two social movements.

Christian-bashing hate blogs lead easily-led not-so-brights into hatred, support of discriminatory practices against Christians and verbal hazing of Christians. This kind of we-are-special and the people-we’ve-picked-out-to-hate-are-less-than-human incitement has historically been able to create fanatic followings of mental and moral midgets who will do anything to anyone to prove their “specialness.”

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Cheap demagoguery is not new and it is certainly not a sign of intellectual prowess. Falling for it and following it is actually a sign of emotional immaturity and the inability to think for oneself. If ever anyone was being brain-washed today it is the millions of people who have fallen into the Dawkins pit of “mock them; ridicule them; in public; with contempt.” Following this kind of leader does not prove you are intellectually superior. It proves that you are morally and developmentally challenged.

Vandalizing churches is just the next, highly-predictable step in the march toward violent persecution. For people in this country to dismiss these things because it’s not so bad here as it is in Kano Nigeria, is a little like someone looking at a pot of water sitting on the stove with steam rising off the water and saying, “It’s not boiling,” as if that means it isn’t on its way to a boil.

The social movements that have taken on a cloak of animosity toward Christians are the gay rights movement and the abortion rights movement. Their behavior seems to be basically a reaction to that simple fact that Christian teaching is that homosexual sexual activity is disordered sexuality and that abortion is the killing of a human being.

These people — who are closely allied with one another politically — appear to be angry because the Church will not redefine its teachings to tell them that their sins are not sinful. In the beginning they expressed this as anger because Christian people exercised their free right as American citizens to lobby for laws against abortion and in favor of traditional marriage. This has since morphed into demands that the law force Christians to participate in abortions and same-sex marriages against their will or face loss of their livelihoods and businesses.

As such, these social movements have begun waging war on the freedom of conscience of those who disagree with them.

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This has become so heated and crazy that both the gay rights movement and the abortion movement have increasingly aligned themselves with the christian-bashing-hazing-insulting-sickos of extreme secularism. This despite the fact that both their movements are based on common claims to human rights that arise directly from the Christian teaching that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.

They might do well to consider the history of extreme secularism and atheism when it is ascendant. Atheist/secularist movements have historically aligned themselves with ideas such as readily available abortion and the rights of groups that feel marginalized. However, when they take power, oppression of homosexuals and state control of human reproduction always seems to follow.

The result of these various forces in action has been a steady march from verbal attacks and verbal hazing toward legal discrimination and now an uptick in vandalizing churches. Most of these instances of vandalism appear to be just that: Vandalism.

One interesting thing is that almost all of them are being covered by local and community press. The larger press is ignoring them, primarily, I would guess, because taken individually, they seem to be isolated incidents of vandalism. It’s the sheer number and consistency of them, combined with the social/political/educational hazing of Christians, that makes them significant.

I don’t think these vandals are organized. However they so often replicate one another that they are appear to be coming from a central set of ideologies and attitudes. If you wonder what that is, just watch the subtle but ubiquitous jibes at faith on almost every television channel, sit in on a lecture or two at your local university, or visit some of the hate blogs and witness their steady, bam-bam-bam drumbeat of Christian-bashing and hatred.

I did a simple Google search this morning on vandalized churches. This is a completely unscientific list of news stories about churches that have been vandalized this summer. The common things the vandals write on the church walls, statues, etc, are Nazi insignia and comments about religious “brainwashing.”

Washington National Cathedral

On July 29, a vandal splattered the organ of historic Bethlehem Chapel and the gilded, hand-carved altarpiece in Children’s Chapel with bright green paint. Damage is currently estimated at $15,000.

Brooklyn, NY

NEW YORK (WABC) – Police arrested a man in connection with the vandalism to a number of houses of worship in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Tuesday morning.

55-year-old Chris Papadimitropoulos is charged with six counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime, 12 counts of criminal mischief and 12 counts of making graffiti.

Wilmington, DE

A trio of Wilmington churches were vandalized with red spray paint on Saturday morning, WCVB initially reported and a town official confirmed to Patch.

“Brainwashed” was stenciled onto statues, doors and stairs and other church property at St. Dorothy’s Church, St. Thomas of Villanova and Wilmington Congregational Church.

Union County SC

Union County, SC -

Union County Sheriff David Taylor says the Buffalo United Methodist Church at 108 Hill Street in Buffalo was vandalized.

Taylor says German swastikas, graffiti and satanic symbols were spray-painted throughout the church.

Bibles inside the church were also ripped apart.

Charleston, SC

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina man said he was “mad at God” when he took out his frustration on 17 churches in dozens of acts of vandalism over the past five years, according to a local newspaper.

Lincoln Township, PA

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP — The pristine face of a 19th Century church was scarred by a vandal Saturday.

 An original stained glass window at Christ Casebeer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln Township was broken with a large rock. The church was built in 1845, according to Rev. Dennis Doebler.

Lee County, FL 

The search is over for three men responsible for breaking into St. Raphael’s Church. Lee County deputies detained and charged three juvenile men early this morning.

Deputies responded to St. Raphael’s Church on Lee Boulevard May 25th after it was broken into and restroom walls and doors were vandalized.

“I can’t of course repeat some of the things that were written on the wall; but they were needless to say obscene,” said Father Dennis Cooney, of St. Raphael’s. “It was something that was done out of pure viciousness.”

A donated Cadillac in the parking lot was also spray painted.

St Paul, MN

Two St. Paul churches were apparent crime victims recently.

According to a police report, someone tipped over a concrete statue of Saint Juan Diego at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 401 Concord St., breaking off its head. The damage occurred sometime between 6 p.m. Monday and 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. The statue is valued at $1,000.

Police are also investigating the theft of copper gutters valued at $1,000 from the First Church of Christ Scientist at 2315 Highland Pkwy. The theft is believed to have happened sometime between July 25 and Thursday.

Aurora, CO

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) Investigators searching for the vandal or vandals responsible for heavily damaging a church in Aurora on Easter Sunday are looking into some DNA evidence in their attempt to solve the case.

So far there’s no description for who the vandal who damaged St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church on March 31 was, but the priest there thinks he knows how they did it.

Father Jim Gilchrist told CBS4 he thinks they took a rock from the prayer garden, smashed a window and crawled in, and then trashed the place.

They ransacked the worship area, shot off fire extinguishers and stole cash and checks from the office.

Buffalo, NY

The Union County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the vandalism of a church in Buffalo.

Sheriff David Taylor said someone broke into Buffalo United Methodist Church on Hill Street overnight and spray painted swastikas, upside down crosses, pentagrams and Satanic messages around the church, splattered red paint on statues, tore pages out of Bibles and turned crosses upside down. Damage was found in the sanctuary and Sunday school rooms.

Roswell. NM

ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – Roswell Police are searching for suspects in a string of churchvandalismovertheweekend.
According to police, one church received a threatening letter and another had a bunchofwindowsbroken.
“Everybody is kind of stunned that nothing is sacred anymore,” said Deacon Howard Herring of St. Peter’s Catholic Church. “Even churches are under attack.”

Hampshire, TN

HAMPSHIRE, Tenn. - It’s a place where people come to worship, but police said they’re investigating why a mid-state church became the target of vandals, even starting a fire inside.

Investigators said they will be looking at whether this was a prank or something much more serious at Dry Fork Church of Christ.

In a town like Hampshire, Tennessee, church is more than just a place of worship.

“Dry Fork Church of Christ was established in 1850 and we presently have served in this location since 1973,” said Shirley Green, who has been a member of the church her entire life. “Our parents and grandparents went here and now our descendants are here.”

The congregation was shocked to find their church had become the target of vandals.

Batavia, NY

BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Batavia Police are on the hunt for a graffiti vandal who targeted three churches. The three calls came in to police between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. Monday.

Someone spray painted on Batavia Assembly of God, Grace Baptist Church and City Church with the message “Religion is a mind virus.”

Pastor Marty MacDonald of City Church said, “I am hoping to meet with this person and go out to lunch and hug him and pray for him, because that’s what the Bible tells us to do.”

Westlake Village, CA

Cleaning crews worked swiftly to remove derogatory graffiti that was placed on property belonging to the City of Westlake Village and St. Jude Catholic Church on Easter weekend.

Vandals targeted the 32000 block of Lindero Canyon Road sometime between Fri., March 29 and Sat., March 30, authorities said.

The graffiti included a reference to homosexuality, several four-letter words and a swastika, a source told The Acorn. One scrawl reportedly said, “God is gay.”

Gastonia, NC

GASTONIA, N.C. — The pastor of Covenant Baptist Church said it is a place of hope and faith, and it is disappointing that someone decided to put a negative message on the church wall.

Obscene words with a reference to God and satanic images are covered with a towel on one wall of the church. Power washing did not wipe them away. The cloth does not cover the framework of the disturbing graffiti.

Savannah, GA

 SAVANNAH, GA (June 13, 2013): Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Detectives are searching for 24-year-old Michael Christopher Garko, believed responsible for thousands of dollars in damage to a Savannah church.

At 8:35 a.m. Monday, Metro officers responded to The Church at Godley Station, on the 1600 block of Benton Boulevard. Officers observed a broken window on the front door and several shattered glass windowpanes around the building. It did not appear that the suspect made entry.

Shelton, CT 

SHELTON – St. Margaret Mary Church, located at 380 Long Hill Ave., was vandalized overnight, police said.

A maid discovered the damage Monday around 6:30 a.m. and called police.

Extensive damage was done to the interior of the church. Several religious statues inside and outside the church were destroyed. Two vehicles in the church’s parking lot were vandalized, police said.

Read more: http://foxct.com/2013/06/10/church-in-shelton-vandalized-statues-destroyed/#ixzz2av5q9GxZ

Omaha, NB

A vandal appears to have used a Holy Cross athletic field near 60th and Center Streets to turn donuts, leaving behind a trail of damage.

Employees discovered the vandalism Thursday morning.

“This damage was definitely purposeful,” said Katie Holmes, office manager for Holy Cross. “It looks like someone was doing donuts on the grass and lost control.”

A section of the field was torn up by the tire tracks. A church-owned garage door appeared to have been backed into, and some nearby heavy city equipment was damaged, she said.

It was the second time in the past year that church has dealt with damage at its field, Holmes said. In the earlier incident, a driver ran into the fence.

Brooklyn, NY

A graffiti vandal painted a large letter “X” on two statues outside St. Anselm’s Church on the corner of 82nd Street and Fourth Avenue last week, but cops have faith they’ll catch the culprit, who was caught on video in the act, and who now has a price on his head.

Union, SC

UNION, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Graffiti, torn Bibles and other vandalism was found in a Union County church early Tuesday morning, according to deputies.

Union County Sheriff David Taylor said furniture was damaged, swastikas and satanic phrases were spray painted on the walls and several Bibles were torn apart.

The phrase “Christ is dead, Satan is alive” was spray-painted on one wall.

  • blackcrown

    Thank you, it is very true. There is a book written several years ago called “The New Anti-Catholicism” which describes these sentiments very well. This hate is waiting to make itself known publicly without having to hide, it is just under the surface and popping up more and more. More people are expressing what they haven’t reflected on: “I hate Christianity.” They are fooled into thinking Christianity is evil without questioning why they believe this. I believe we are on the brink of all out war on Christianity very soon. I pray that I may stand when called to for the greater glory of God!

  • FW Ken

    It’s interesting that as laws and court decisions go against Christians, we are more and more the target of people shrieking about how we oppress them. Apparently the oppression is that we disagree with them.

  • Michael Blissenbach

    My hometown parish was vandalized earlier this year, along with a pro-life billboard right next to it. http://www.hastingsstargazette.com/content/police-seek-publics-help-finding-church-vandals
    And this is in an otherwise quite and historically 85% Catholic town. I am increasingly worried about growing anti-Catholicism in the country.
    So I appreciate your post.

  • Michael Blissenbach

    And two years ago, there was Eucharistic desecration that occured at that same parish. http://thecatholicspirit.com/columns/news-notes/eucharist-incident-in-hastings-prompts-response/

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    With all due respect, you are making an extreme claim and backing it up with minimal evidence. You write: “The increasingly widespread vandalizing of churches is indeed a hate crime. Where is this rise of hatred directed at people of faith in general and Christians in particular coming from?I believe it is inspired by the virulent anti-Christian ethos in our halls of higher education, the mass media, and at least two social movements.”

    For that all to be true, several things must also be true: Vandalizing churches has increased, and by a significant enough amount to make it clearly something beyond random. And the people doing the vandalizing must be secularists or demonstrably influenced by a “virulent anti-Christian ethos.”

    The US has more than 200,000 Christian churches. Serious question: How many instances of vandalizing would be enough to represent a clear trend? Because a few dozen or even a few hundred over a year really *would* be too small to be identified as non-random just by the numbers. And then you’d need to look at five or ten or 20 years ago to see if the reports have gone up or down. I’ve seen nothing to indicate there’s been a huge change over that time.

    To the contrary. There’s nothing particularly new about churches (or other houses of worship) being attacked. Remember the clusters of church burnings, for instance. And in at least one case of those, the men convicted had been raised as conservative Christians and may have been rebelling against that. Was that because a kid chafed in an evil way about parental restrictions or a virulent anti-Christian bias? The burden of proof, I suggest, is on you.

    It is still true that almost 80% of Americans self-identify as *some* kind of Christian. If there’s a bias out there against Christianity, it’s paddling upstream. Lots of those self-identified Christians, by the way, may operate under a different theology than you agree with. In favor of same-sex marriages because of what they say they find in their Bibles, for instance. Does that make them not Christian?

    Yes, there *are* people who hate Christianity. And people who hate Judaism. And hate Islam. And so on. A far smaller number are willing to act violently on those hates. And fortunately, in the United States, based on the evidence I can find, these people remain a tiny fringe.

    • hamiltonr

      Jeffrey, I took the liberty of bringing over your earlier comment from FB. As I told you there, I’m busy this evening and try to stand down on Sundays. But I will check in later tonight. Your FB comment was:

      Two problems with the premise. The United States has something more than 200,000 Christian churches. So her examples represent something less than a ten-thousanth of a percent. And there’s nothing even new about it. Remember the several church fire outbreaks of several years back? And at least some of the vandals, when caught, turn out to have been Christian. In some cases, raised *conservative* Christian. And may have been rebelling against exactly that. There’s a huge danger in drawing large conclusions from small numbers. And even when the numbers are larger, there’s a danger in connecting dots. Constellations, for instance, do not represent real links between stars. Because of Google it has never been easier in human history to track down information. Whether there is a real pattern and whether that pattern is significant are a lot harder to discern.

    • hamiltonr

      Jeffrey — This isn’t a question. It’s a full blog post. Try to narrow it down to something connected to the post above and of a good length for a combox.

      • Jeffrey Weiss

        Here: “For example is not proof.” and “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” The post makes sweeping claims without offering anything like sweeping evidence. Does she have better evidence?

        • hamiltonr

          Jeffrey, the premise on which you are basing your demands for “evidence” is flawed. I made no “sweeping claims,” if by that you mean that I stated my opinions as fact. What I did is say quite plainly that they were my opinions. I suppose you could use the word “theory” for a an imprecise synonym here. I also supplied an explanation for how I thought what I think its happening came to be and placed it within a continuum of events, as well as historical progressions. (Most of this latter is in other posts which you may have not read.)

          So, argue with my theory and stop demanding proof for facts I did not claim were facts.

          BTW, the FBI lists vandalizing churches as a hate crime. Their stats also showed a 2% uptick in incidents of vandalized churches since 2007. That doesn’t prove my premise (I do have one, btw.) but it is an interesting indicator which supports it. I read this before I wrote this post, but since I didn’t intend to cite it, just went on. I can probably find it again, if just taking my word for it gives you heartburn.

          • Jeffrey Weiss

            Um. Sweeping claim: “The increasingly widespread vandalizing of churches is indeed a hate crime.”

            You are, as the saying goes, entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts. “Increasingly widespread vandalizing of churches” either is or is not true. If it is not true, then the rest of your post is, with all due respect, irrelevant. You make a logical argument. But if your first premise is false, then it’s built, ahem, on a foundation of sand. A 2% uptick, given the relatively small numbers, doesn’t make much of a case.

            • hamiltonr

              Jeff, you’re taking that sentence out of context to make a point that is inconsistent with the whole of the post. I said repeatedly that this was my opinion. I also said that the examples I gave were not exhaustive.The 2% uptick was from the FBI. I have no idea what you mean by “relatively small numbers.” Are you saying that 2% is a “small number,” and thus categorically insignificant?

              What criteria do you use to arrive at this judgement? Is there a magic number that you thinks automatically makes a finding statistically significant? If so, what is it? 3%? Or maybe 7%? Does it take as much as 20%?

              Of course, the answer remains, a percent of what? A simple percentage won’t tell you much in something like this.

              I don’t know enough about the FBI reports to say whether or not this is a statistically significant change. However, 2% often is statistically significant.

              As to church vandalism being a hate crime, that is actually how the FBI defines it, which probably means that there is a legal definition out there on which they are basing that. I haven’t seen the legal definition, but I would assume that’s the case, based on how law enforcement operates.

              I did say when I put the statistic in the earlier reply it is not, on its own, proof of anything (not because it is not statistically insignificant, but because I didn’t have enough information to say whether or not it was statistically significant.) However, it is consistent with what I was saying.

              Do you understand statistics enough to know what I’m saying here? If not, wave your hand, and I’ll try to explain it better. I’m not a statistician. Not by any means. But I do understand that the percentage you gave on Kathy’s FB page was statistical gibberish, and that your comment here is non sequitur.

              My overall point is that I believe that there is a progression of discriminatory activities in societies that, if they are not checked, lead to violent persecution of groups of people. I also believe that Christians in America in particular are moving along that continuum. I’ve discussed this many times on this blog. Re-read other posts I’ve published to get the gist of it.

              You can debate this. It is a theory, if you like the word. I call it an opinion.

              I’m not going to keep on answering the same thing. I believe you’ve made this identical claim a number of times now and I’ve answered it repeatedly. I won’t do it again.

              • Jeffrey Weiss

                Perhaps I am unclear. I will make one more attempt. You say that a significant increase in church vandalism is evidence of a rot in our society — specifically an increase in anti-Christianity. Unless your premise is true, it does not support your conclusion. If you’re saying that the increase in attacks is simply your opinion, I suggest that’s like having an opinion about the number of beans in a jar. There is a real number. My reading of reports does not indicate that there is any such significant increase.

                • hamiltonr

                  Actually, that is not my premise.

                  My premise refers to a number of factors, mostly historic. I said:
                  The result of these various forces in action has been a steady march from verbal attacks and verbal hazing toward legal discrimination and now an uptick in vandalizing churches. Most of these instances of vandalism appear to be just that: Vandalism.

                  You analogy doesn’t fit since I never said or claimed any hard numbers. The only real numbers — which I did not cite in my post — come from the FBI, but you don’t accept those.
                  I said:
                  I did a simple Google search this morning on vandalized churches. This is a completely unscientific list of news stories about churches that have been vandalized this summer.

                  I said I wasn’t going to answer this same nonsense again, and then I did. But this really is it. If you can’t find something else to say, I’ll be forced to either ignore you or delete you.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      For someone who pretends to represent sensible sociological standards, you commit a number of elementary mistakes (if they are mistakes) and show yourself painfully ignorant of social experience. It is, first, grossly wrong to restrict your sampling time to twenty years, less than a generation, let alone a lifetime. And in fact, twenty years ago the forces in action now were already firmly in charge, as we all know very well. Second, you speak of “church burnings” as though they were all historically the same. The past of the USA contains hostility against specific groups: Catholics, Mormons, Blacks. In the past it could happen that Catholic churches or Mormon temples or Black church buildings were firebombed or vandalized. What is new is the ferocity of the onslaught against Christianity itself. And as for your ignorance of social precedent, it comes out in the bizarre notion that just because there is a (largely inert and nominal) majority for something that calls itself Christianity, therefore a very motivated minority cannot be succeeding and having things its own way. Anyone who is stupid enough to imagine that an inert majority can, merely by existing, block or even slow an aggressive and purposeful minority, has not studied history or sociology. He may have read books, he may even have wasted a lot of time reading books. But he has not studied history or sociology.

    • FW Ken

      A tiny fringe, perhaps, but a vocal one in control of the academy and the media. “The New Anti-Catholicism: the Last Acceptable Prejudice” has already been referenced. In it, Phillip Jenkins, and historian and, I think, a sociologist, documents the fervor with which Americans verbally attack Catholic Christianity. Every day brings new evidence of malice and ignorance.

      “a kid chafed in an evil way about parental restrictions or a virulent anti-Christian bias? The burden of proof, I suggest, is on you.”

      Uh, no. There is nothing to be proved, and I consider it an amazing thing to somehow dismiss hate this way. If we are talking about the same series of arsons, there were two boys, raised in the same east Texas baptist church. The chafing in an evil wa IS a virulent ant-Christian bias.

      I’m going to let Rebecca defend her claims that this prejudice is on the rise. But I would like to point out one standard hypocrisy. Let the right kind of single incident happen, and it’s far from an outlier but a symptom of Something Dreadfully Wrong With Our Society. Take the murder of Matthew Shepherd by two meth-heads. It was a national event. Take the Gosnell tragedy. Until the media were shamed publicly by a few of their own, it was widely ignored, and then dismissed as a single bad example, which it wasn’t. But Wendy Davis grandstands for abortion against a bill that was always going to pass and she is the Big New Thing. Dismissing violence against Christian for any reason is despicable. And then there is this, which I have yet to see reported in a mainstream outlet:

      http://cnsnews.com/news/article/bishop-catholic-mom-murdered-gay-man-died-martyr-her-faith

      Just a local crime. Nothing to see, move along.

  • Bill S

    “their movements are based on common claims to human rights that arise directly from the Christian teaching that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.”

    People would push for human rights anyway. It has nothing to do with believing that humans are made in the image of God. That might have been the premise at one time, but it isn’t any more. And those who do say that go on to deny others human rights that they think are unworthy of that image.

    • hamiltonr

      All evidence of history aside, eh, Bill? Today’s “premises” about Christianity that are being pushed by atheists are ahistorical propaganda, which is to say that they “work” with some people only because our educational system has left them so woefully ignorant of history while turning them into multiple-choice test-takers who cannot think.

      What I’m saying is that there is no basis in reality for your contention.

      • Bill S

        “Today’s “premises” about Christianity that are being pushed by atheists are ahistorical propaganda,”

        I don’t know what you mean by “ahistorical propaganda”. Atheists recognize the history of Christianity. I guess I am beginning to have as many problems with atheism as with Catholicism. Atheism is based on NeoDarwinism which hardly explains anything about how we got here. Atheist governments have a terrible track record. It downplays the contribution of Christianity to our evolution. I guess I am as likely to identify myself as a Catholic as an atheist, though I deeply disagree with both.

  • pagansister

    Though I do not claim to be a Christian, I have NO Tolerance for those that vandalize any religious building or meeting place——none whatsoever. There is NO reason to do so and those that do should be punished to the fullest extent of the law—yes, I agree it is a “hate crime” in every sense of the word “hate”. This country is not totally Christian fortunately, nor is it totally Muslim or Jewish or Pagan etc. That is one of the many reasons our country is what it is—the right to practice a faith OR the right to NOT practice a faith. The Lincoln Memorial was vandalized last week—what’s with that? One thing my children learned being raised in the UU church was respect for all faiths and the right of people to follow their faith (or not). To this day, as adults, they still believe what they were taught by us and the UU’s.

    • FW Ken

      From what I am hearing, the green paint vandalism in D.C. was committed by a homeless women, undoubtedly with mental illness. God bless her.

      • pagansister

        If that is the case, she should be helped, for sure. Obviously there are some cases in which the individual is in need of help, not prosecution. Thanks for the info.


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