House, Senate pass bill that makes it a Class C felony to desecrate a house of worship

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The rise of antisemitic and anti-Christian vandalism is the motivation behind House Bill 238, which makes it a Class C felony to target houses of worship with property crimes.

The bill amends Alaska’s statute on criminal mischief in the third degree to include the crime of “institutional vandalism.” According to the sponsor, Rep. Andy Josephson, 42 states and Washington, D.C. make this and desecration of a grave crimes that are more serious than regular property damage.

Alaska already considers it a Class C felony to deface, desecrate, or destroy a cemetery or place of burial. The additional language adds places like churches and synagogues.

The bill adds the extra penalties to someone who “defaces or damages real property that (i) has a place of religious education or worship located on it; and (ii) if leased or used by a religious organization and is a part of a larger property, is the part of the property leased or used by the religious organization, including the access to the entry of the part of the property; or (D) defaces or damages tangible personal property that has religious significance and is used by religious organization or displayed for educational purposes.”

It would be a Class C felony if the property value is $750 or more, a Class A misdemeanor if the property value was between $250 and $750, and a Class B misdemeanor if the property value is less than $250.

Josephson’s office mentioned that there have been three recent desecrations of note: Mountain City Church in Anchorage, where someone used a chemical to burn a swastika shape onto the front lawn; a smashed crucifix at a church in Chefornak, and a phallic symbol painted on the entryway of a church in Eagle River. Nazi stickers were plastered on the walls of the Alaska Jewish Museum, and a swastika was carved onto the door.

In the Senate, the amended bill passed 17-2, with Sen. Shelley Hughes excused.

Voting yea were Sens. Bishop, Bjorkman, Claman, Dunbar, Giessel, Gray-Jackson, Hoffman, Kaufman, Kawasaki, Kiehl, Merrick, Myers, Olson, Stedman, Stevens, Tobin, and Wielechowski.

Voting nay were Sens. Shower and Wilson


The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence with minor changes and then would be ready for the governor’s approval.

15 COMMENTS

    • Maybe because we need to enforce the laws that are already on the books? Our lawmakers and law enforcers are ignoring the current laws and making their own up as they go along.

      • I noticed that as well. Is there a poison pill aspect of this not immediately clear?

        I’d like to hear from Shower on this.

    • Perhaps because we already have laws against vandalism, arson, etc. and it flies in the face of the notion of “equal protection under the law” to single out certain victims for special treatment over others.

  1. I think we should have a rule that every time we make something new against the law or increase penalties for something, we should be required to legalize something else or reduce the penalties for something.

  2. Making new laws has no implications for the perpetrators.

    Remember the guy who stole 3 cars in a week and got caught each time (who simply cut off his ankle bracelet) in Anchorage when Berkowitz was in charge and told police not to pursue stolen car thieves.

    A private citizen found and retrieved more stolen vehicles back then than APD.
    Anchorage ranked near the top in the nation for car theft per capita thanks to SB91.

  3. What does the US Constitution say about tampering withe the US Criminal code. Can anyone do it because they feel vigorous that day? Please cite the authority for possibly illegal group activity and what office in the legislative branch is charged currently with the duty to ensure for the people the corporate rules are enacted in strict compliance with the US Constitution? I doubt anyone can or will answer accurately.

    • I’m having some difficulty following your question, but what I think you are after is…

      The Constitution is relatively silent on the US criminal code, especially since it didn’t exist when the Constitution was written.

      As such, the ability to manipulate the criminal code falls within the scope of the legislative branch. The legislative branch can do pretty much as they wish until they actually wander up against specific Constitutional prohibitions (say, search and seizure).

      Additionally, a case can be made since the Constitution is mostly silent on the matter, these decisions can and should default to individual states via Federalism.

      But again, I had a hard time following your question and could be wrong due to this.

  4. Frankly, a felony conviction isn’t much of a threat anymore. The kind of monster who desecrates religious facilities is probably already a multiple felon, and the system just keeps letting them go free. We need way more than double the prison space we already have, and make them work camps of hard labor; farming by hand, crushing rock into gravel by hand, etc.

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