A Louisiana man was arrested Thursday after causing extensive damage to a Catholic church, which Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy called “the latest episode of attacks on those who believe” in an exclusive statement to the Daily Caller.
Chandler Johnson, 23, spent nearly two hours vandalizing the outside property of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Tioga, Louisiana, according to KALB.
Video showed the suspected vandal destroying planters, statues, and stained glass windows, and attempted to destroy the church’s statue of the Virgin Mary, parish officer manager Tara Christen told Town Talk. The suspect was “in a rage,” and did not enter the building, Christen added.
If you need any more proof that evil does in fact exist in this world, look no further than this despicable act of hate against Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Tioga. I pray that those responsible for this crime are held fully accountable.https://t.co/exBriBxIT0
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) September 13, 2020
Cassidy told the Caller that if the church needs help replacing all it lost, “we must assist.”
This act is the latest episode of attacks on those who believe. But in darkness, light shines brighter. Immaculate Heart of Mary Church will be restored. If they need help, we must assist. And believers must courageously speak faith, hope and love to the hateful and intolerant. This is the victory of faith.
Cassidy has been among the lawmakers that has expressed concern over the vandalism and other crimes that have targeted places of worship, and in recent months, Catholic Churches across the country.
In August, Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy expressed his concern in a letter to Attorney General William Barr, specifically pointing to the recent attacks targeting Catholics, which include multiple arsons and vandalism. (RELATED: ‘Catholics Are Under Attack In America’: Senator Kennedy Urges Attorney General Barr To Prosecute Anti-Catholic Crime)
“Catholics are under attack in America. That is a sentence I hoped I would never have to write, but it is the reality we are facing,” Kennedy wrote. “Since the start of the street protests beginning in May, too many accompanied by riots, there have been at least 19 attacks on Catholic Churches, statues, businesses, cemeteries, parishioners, and personnel.”
Numerous Virgin Mary statues have been beheaded or set aflame across the country in July and August, and Catholics have been targeted while worshipping. A man was arrested for crashing his vehicle into the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Florida in July, and then poured gasoline in the foyer area and set it aflame while parishioners were inside preparing for mass.
What a strange time when live it. Over the weekend, a outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother was beheaded at St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga. This is occurring at various spots throughout the United States.
— Bishop Rick Stika (@BishopStika) July 13, 2020
Damage at this church in Weymouth after police believe someone tried to set it on fire.
The Catholic Action League says this is the 6th Catholic institution in our area to be a target of vandalism or arson.
— Litsa Pappas (@LitsaPappas) August 4, 2020
Johnson was charged with criminal trespassing and institutional vandalism, according to KALB. While attacks involving houses of worship are often investigated with the consideration that bigotry was a motivator, police are looking into this incident as possibly being a crime of opportunity.
“Whenever churches or other religious buildings or locations are intentionally damaged, we consider the possibility this is more than just vandalism,” said Sheriff Mark Wood, according to Town Talk. “At this time, this appears to be a more of a crime of opportunity by this suspect.”