Despite the Biden Administration’s heightened emphasis on identifying and punishing what it deems to be the growing threat of LGBTQ hate crimes, the latest FBI statistics show little trouble on that front in Alaska, while hate crimes targeting religious groups are at an all-time high.
Of the five hate crimes reported in Alaska last year, two were “anti-Christian,” two were “anti-Jewish,” and one was “anti-LGBT. All incidents involved destruction of property, vandalism or larceny. Three instances occurred at a house of worship, one at a community center and one at a parking lot. Overall, two religious organizations and two businesses were impacted.
The 2022 data was collected by the FBI from 32 out of 39 law enforcement agencies across Alaska.
Alaska’s five hate crimes in 2022 represents a significant drop from the 20 reports in 2021. Over the past five years, however, Alaska averages less than seven hate crimes annually. The four religiously-motivated hate crimes, however, amount to the most ever – going all the way back to 1993. Prior to 2022, the most religious-motivated hate crimes in a single year was three, including 2021.
Nationally, there were 2,044 religiously motivated hate crimes reported across the U.S. in 2022, the most since the agency began keeping records in 1991.
Hate crimes are defined as criminal offenses motivated “in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The crimes can be committed against “people, property, or society,” according to the FBI’s website.
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“Because motivation is subjective, it is sometimes difficult to know with certainty whether a crime resulted from the offender’s bias,” the FBI website acknowledges. “The presence of bias alone does not necessarily mean that a crime can be considered a hate crime. Only when a law enforcement investigation reveals sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by their bias, should an agency report an incident as a hate crime.”
Hate crimes have become a major concern of the Biden Administration, and the FBI office in Anchorage has joined a national campaign – including tv, radio and online notices, to build public awareness of hate crimes and to encourage reporting.A
With regards to hate crime allegations, critics note the problem of lumping “sexual orientation and gender identity” in with objective and immutable classifications like race, sex and national origin when prosecuting hate crimes. A key concern is that such legislation often uses a person’s religious views about traditional marriage between a man and woman and human sexuality to increase sentences when a crime is committed. Others note that the focus should be on the crime itself, not religious, political or social views that the government deems unacceptable.