Religious bias incidents were the third most frequent type of hate crime committed in the U.S. in 2021, with anti-Jewish bias the most common religious bias incident, according to updated FBI data.
Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as “crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.”
The annual hate crime report is based on data submitted to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program by law enforcement agencies, or LEAs, “operating in city jurisdictions with populations of 1,000,000 or more.”
An initial data set was published in December 2022, but the information was incomplete due to a transition in the reporting mechanisms that not all LEAs had completed by December.
To ensure that the 2021 report provided “a more complete representation of reported hate crimes in the U.S. for 2021,” the FBI decided to allow LEAs to submit their 2021 hate crime data through the previous reporting mechanisms and created a supplemental report that was released on March 13.
There were 10,840 hate crime incidents, 12,411 hate crime offenses and 12,822 victims of hate crimes reported by LEAs in 2021. Most incidents (10,530) had a single bias and involved 12,411 victims, with the remaining 310 incidents involving two or more biases and 411 victims.
Single-bias incidents can involve more than one category of offense but only one bias (race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability), while multiple-bias incidents have more than one bias.
“Because motivation is subjective, it is sometimes difficult to know with certainty whether a crime resulted from the offender’s bias. The presence of bias alone does not necessarily mean that a crime can be considered a hate crime,” the report explains. “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 his or her bias, should an agency report an incident as a hate crime.”
Of the 10,840 hate crime incidents in 2021, 14.1% were based on religious bias – the third most frequent type of incident following race / ethnicity / ancestry bias (64.5%) and sexual-orientation bias (15.9%). The remaining incidents were based on gender identity (3.2%), disability bias (1.4%) and gender bias (1%).
Hate crimes based on sexual orientation bias saw the sharpest rise from 2020 to 2021, increasing 62.8%, followed by race / ethnicity / ancestry bias (58.2%), religion bias (36.7%), and gender identity bias (17.9%).
Of the total hate crime offenses committed in 2021, 8,327 were crimes against persons, 3,817 were crimes against property and 267 were crimes against society.
A plurality of these offenses happened in or near residences (28.4%), followed by public roads / sidewalks (17.4%), schools / colleges (7.2%), parking lots / garages (6.2%), restaurants (3.1%), houses of faith (3.0%), and parks / playgrounds (2.7%).
Of the 1,590 religious bias incidents in 2021, 260 (16.4%) took place in a house of faith. The remaining religious bias incidents took place in other locations, with a residence / home (352; 22.1%) being the most common location for religious bias incidents.
Religious organizations / entities were the victims in 212 hate crime offenses in 2021, with most (184 offenses) involving destruction / damage / vandalism to their property. A dozen offenses involved arson, followed by burglary (9), larceny / theft (4), other (2) and motor vehicle theft (1).
Of the 1,746 victims of religious bias offenses in 2021, a plurality (869 victims) resulted from to anti-Jewish bias. The number of incidents involving anti-Jewish bias increased from 683 in 2020 to 817 in 2021, which is the largest incident increase of any faith tradition.
Anti-Sikh bias (195 victims) was the second most common religious bias offense, followed by anti-Islamic (Muslim) (190), anti-Catholic (102), anti-other religion (90), anti-other Christian (58), anti-Eastern Orthodox (57), anti-multiple religions (49), anti-Protestant (46), anti-Buddhist (30), anti-atheism/agnosticism (19), anti-Church of Jesus Christ (19), anti-Hindu (18), and anti-Jehovah’s Witness (4).
The report explained that “the term victim may refer to an individual, business/financial institution, government entity, religious organization, or society/public as a whole.”
Intimidation was the most common religious bias crime, followed by simple assault, aggravated assault and other crimes against persons.