The FBI has released its data on hate crimes for the year 2006. Reported incidents of hate crimes have risen since 2005, from 7163 incidents to 7722 incidents. That number may be much larger since only a small fraction of law enforcement agencies even bother to report to the FBI (they aren’t required to by law), for instance, the incidents involving nooses in Jena were not reported to this study. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is the breakdown of religiously motivated hate crimes in 2006.
“Of the 1,750 victims of an anti-religion hate crime:
* 65.4 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
* 11.9 percent were victims of an anti-Islamic bias.
* 4.9 percent were victims of an anti-Catholic bias.
* 3.7 percent were victims of an anti-Protestant bias.
* 0.5 percent were victims of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
* 8.4 percent were victims of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
* 5.3 percent were victims of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).”
A couple things become immediately clear, one, that Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) experienced the fewest religiously-motivated hate crimes of any faith grouping (despite claims of widespread anti-Christian activity by some conservative Christians), and two, that a large number of religious hate crimes (coming in third behind Muslims and Jews) are towards faiths that check the “other” box in surveys. In fact, the number of incidents against “other religions” have risen since 2005, with 41 more victims of a religious-motivated hate crime in 2006.
The problem with this data is we have no idea who the “others” are. Buddhists? Hindus? Pagans? All of the above? There is no break-down within the category. While we can’t say that “x” number of Pagans (or Hindus, etc) were the victims of a hate crime, we can assume that faiths on the fringes of the mainstream, non-Christian faiths, and new religious movements have seen an increase in hate crime activity since 2005. It may also be true that the crimes against “other” are much higher since the chances that rural law enforcement districts are going to report to the FBI when a Wiccan gets harassed are most likely slim to none.
On the other hand, this data shouldn’t be used to hypothesize some sort of neo-“Burning Times” against adherents of Pagan faiths. Certainly incidents against “other” adherents are dwarfed by a still-huge number of anti-Jewish/Semitic attacks (over 1000 victims as opposed to 147). What we can say is that incidents of hate crimes against faiths outside the norm are potentially on the rise, and it is something we should pay attention to when 2007’s numbers are released. These numbers should spark renewed conversation about how welcoming we are as a society to faiths outside the Christian comfort-zone, and why attacks on minority religions are growing.