Oct 26, 2021 - Podcasts

Crimes against houses of worship are on the rise

From Jewish synagogues and Buddhist temples to Catholic churches and Muslim mosques, houses of worship this year are experiencing high levels of vandalism, arson and other property damage. According to early numbers, 2021 is on track to be a record year for hate crimes in the U.S., and many of those are linked to religious bigotry.

  • Plus, global leaders prepare for the climate summit in Glasgow.
  • And, your future home could be 3D-printed.

Guests: Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University; Axios' Andrew Freedman and Joann Muller.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, October 26th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: global leaders prepare for the climate summit in Glasgow. Plus: your future home...could be 3-d printed.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: crimes against houses of worship, on the rise.

From Jewish synagogues and Buddhist temples to Catholic churches and Muslim mosques, houses of worship are this year experiencing high levels of vandalism, arson and other property damage. According to early numbers, 2021 is on track to be a record year for hate crimes in the U.S., and many of those are linked to religious bigotry.

One group tracking this is the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University. Professor Brian Levin is the director of the center and also teaches criminal justice at Cal State. Brian, thank you for being with us.

BRIAN LEVIN: Thank you so much for having me.

NIALA: Can you give us a brief snapshot of what it looks like when we think about attacks against houses of worship in the past year and how that compares to previous years?

BRIAN: In 2020, there really was a decline in religious hate crimes and that brought down the number of attacks against houses of worship, though they certainly still occurred. That being said as racial hate crimes rose with regard to two events, one, COVID and two, the George Floyd murder, we saw different spikes. When we did see some of these attacks, they tended to be bootstrapped to racial hate crimes which went up a lot. Religious hate crimes went down significantly but that all changes once people get out from the COVID restrictions.

NIALA: And so that all changes this year. Can you give us a sense of what 2021 looks like so far? Not just hate crimes, but also incidents of violence, arson, vandalism against all faiths, different houses of worship.

BRIAN: Well, faith hate crimes are up overall and again, we're still going through the data, but the numbers that are coming in from advocacy groups and those that monitor hate crimes against houses of worship, it is disturbing this year and we're definitely seeing an increase in religious hate crime, and hate crimes against houses of worship, whether they're Catholic, Jewish, and even Muslim appear to be on the rise as well from our channel checks, preliminarily.

NIALA: Brian, we also saw the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops last week discuss the fact that they have started tracking these incidents and they had the hundredth last week as well here in the U.S. Do we know why that is?

BRIAN: The communal institutions, which hold us together traditionally —academia, arms of government, the media, the medical establishment, and now, religious institutions are held in low esteem relative to decades prior, right? So when there are disputes or questions about authority, there's always a place for someone of faith to be scapegoated.

One thing though, that I want to point out that's been occurring, is that when there's political conflict, it is now translating over, in other words, it's bubbling over. It's not only affecting one group and that's something that's a little different now. So we have a series of catalysts. They can be political, it can be religious holidays and even conflicts among faith communities in other parts of the world that translate here.

NIALA: Professor Brian Levin is the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I appreciate it.

BRIAN: Thank you so much.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with what you need to know ahead of the cop26 climate summit.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. More than 100 world leaders are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland for COP 26, the UN climate conference that starts this weekend. Here to explain what to watch for is Axios’ as climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman. Hi Andrew.


NIALA: What exactly is COP 26 and what's the overall goal?

ANDREW: So COP stands for Conference of the Parties. So it's essentially all the countries of the world that signed an agreement way back in 1992 to protect the climate. And this summit is really all about trying to implement the Paris agreement, which was negotiated in 2015, but a lot of the details of how it would work were left to subsequent summits.

NIALA: Can you explain what the U.S. position is going into this and how the outcomes of COP 26 will impact president Biden's climate agenda?

ANDREW: The next 10 days is this incredible period where president Biden's domestic agenda and international agenda are completely intertwined. Because what happens in Congress is going to significantly affect what the president can do abroad. Whether he walks into the conference center in Glasgow having a framework for a climate bill in Congress, or having passed something, or whether he comes in essentially empty handed and other countries look at the United States, still questioning our commitment.

NIALA: Andrew, what is at stake here? If world leaders fail to make progress on reducing global missions at COP 26? Is this it?

ANDREW: I'm torn on this question, because I think that people hear too often that this is a make or break moment, that this is our chance to save the planet. That if we fail here, we’re screwed and really what this is, is an annual summit with very high stakes. The really big thing that's at stake is keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target alive. Because If countries do not commit to a credible emissions reductions of a certain amount, then that puts us on a pathway that we're going to fly past 1.5 degrees C of warming by 2100.

NIALA: Andrew Freedman is a climate and energy reporter for Axios. Thank you, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me!

NIALA: The next big thing in affordable housing just might be 3-D printed cement houses—which are a cheaper and more efficient solution to building homes. But it could also create a big problem for climate change given that these houses are made of cement, and the cement industry is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emission. Here to explain that tradeoff is Joann Muller, Axios’ transportation correspondent. First, how do you 3-D print a house?

JOANN MULLER: Well, 3-D printed structures are built by a robot and they kind of squeeze out a cement mixture out of a nozzle layer upon layer. Just like if you can envision a soft swirl ice cream cone.

NIALA: And is this cheaper than our conventional methods of home building?

JOANN: Yeah, well, what's interesting is that the construction industry really hasn't changed in like a hundred years. So there's a lot of old fashion methods that we still use today. And so this is really a technological revolution.

NIALA: Where are they doing this now?

JOANN: As you might expect, a lot of this is coming out of Silicon valley— that's where the first few developments are. Europe has been doing this for a while. And, some charities are trying to build houses this way as a cheaper way to, to get homeless people, some shelter.

NIALA: So why is this a problem for climate change?

JOANN: So if you're using traditional cement, it uses a ton of energy and it also kicks off a lot of CO2 emissions. And so the housing industry is actually contributing to the climate problem.

NIALA: Joann Muller is one of the authors of the what's next newsletter. Thank you, Joann.

JOANN: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: Before we go: the independent advisory committee of the FDA meets today to talk about the safety of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5-11. There’s already promising data from both Pfizer and Moderna about their COVID vaccines for kids — and top officials have said shots could be available by the first week of November. So ahead of that, we want to know: What are your most pressing questions or concerns about the expected COVID vaccine rollout for 5-11 year old kids? Axios’ Tina Reed will track down the answers and join us on the podcast to walk us through what you need to know. Text me your questions at (202) 918-4893, as a text message or a voice memo, or email us at [email protected].

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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