Police arrested a man in Torrington, Connecticut this week for allegedly setting fire to a Chevy Equinox SUV used by missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The reason? According to the police statements, the perpetrator was “tired of [the missionaries] knocking on doors and trying to convert his family and friends…,” per Fox 61.
Samuel Vandeusen, 22, was charged with deprivation of rights, third-degree arson, first-degree criminal mischief, and second-degree breach of peace. Deprivation of rights is considered a hate crime because Vandeusen admitted to targeting the missionaries specifically because of their faith. He’s held on $250,000 bond.
Witnesses say they saw a man stuff a lit rag into the vehicle’s gas filler in an attempt to set the entire car ablaze.
Missionaries reportedly live downstairs from Vandeusen. Neighbors have described the missionaries as “real nice guys.” The Council on American-Islamic relations condemned the incident, saying, “Americans of all faiths should be free to share their faith without fear of intimidation or attack…. We condemn this alleged bias-motivated attack and urge community leaders to speak out against the type of bigotry that inevitably leads to such incidents.”
Hate crimes against Latter-day Saints are nothing new. In 2019, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed it had been tracking hate crimes against religious groups for the previous three years. It documented 15 “anti-Mormon” hate crimes, or crimes specifically targeting Latter-day Saints because of their faith, in 2017, roughly twice that which was recorded in 2016.
Nevertheless, hate crimes against Latter-day Saints pale in comparison to those afflicting Jews and Muslims, who experienced 63 and 18 times more hate crimes than Latter-day Saints in 2017.
Regardless, let’s not torch people’s cars just because we don’t like their faith, ok?