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EXCLUSIVE: The White House condemned arson and vandalism at houses of worship “in the strongest possible terms,” calling the attacks “despicable” and unlawful while maintaining Americans “must be able to practice their faith without fear.”

“The president is deeply concerned about these reports and condemns arsons and other vandalism of houses of worship in the strongest possible terms,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News. “Such attacks are despicable, endanger lives and have the appalling aim of provoking fear. They are also unlawful.”

“As the president has said repeatedly, everyone must be able to practice their faith without fear, and no individual or institution should be targeted for intimidation, harassment, or violence because of their religious identity or affiliation,” Bates said.

The comments come after two churches were set on fire and a third was vandalized in Bethesda, Maryland, over the weekend.

President Biden speaks about inflation and supply chain issues in Los Angeles. 
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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Around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, authorities were called to North Bethesda United Methodist Church regarding vandalism and arson, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer said. 

About 1,000 feet away, investigators also found damaged headstones and “broken wood pieces” scattered around Wildwood Baptist Church. 

Then on Sunday morning, Montgomery County fire officials were called to Saint Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church, where several pews had been set on fire. 

Damage was estimated at $50,000 at the Catholic Church, which is about a mile away from the other two churches that were vandalized, according to Fox 5 DC. 

It is unclear if the vandalism and arson were related to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Anti-abortion demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the ruling on Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022, transposed with images of major media networks. 

Anti-abortion demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the ruling on Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022, transposed with images of major media networks. 
(Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Pro-life leaders last month asked the Justice Department to investigate attacks on churches and pro-life organizations following the Supreme Court’s ruling to return the issue of abortion to the states for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Also last month, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged U.S. politicians to denounce what they described as the “alarming rate” of vandalism against Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore released a statement ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision, noting that attacks and vandalism against Catholic churches have been increasing for the past two years and that they first called on elected officials to condemn such attacks in 2021. They noted that since the leak of the high court’s draft opinion, they have observed that the attacks have become almost daily. 

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“This past January, we prayed that all religious communities would be free to worship without fear. Only rarely have the motives been clear; when they were, it was often opposition to the Church’s teachings on life in the womb,” the clergymen wrote.

Dolan, who serves as the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty, and Lori, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, explained that since the leaked Court opinion, “charities that support pregnant mothers in need have been firebombed, and pro-life organizations have been attacked almost daily and terrorized, and even the lives of Supreme Court justices have been directly threatened.”

Abortion-rights protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. 

Abortion-rights protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. 
((AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana))

“In light of this, we urge our elected officials to take a strong stand against this violence, and our law enforcement authorities to increase their vigilance in protecting those who are in increased danger.  We thank those who have already done so, and we encourage them to continue,” they added.

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Dolan and Lori also lauded the Catholic Church’s “long history of service to those who are most vulnerable, including both mother and child,” and said it “remains the largest provider of social services in the United States.”

Conservative Supreme Court justices have also been threatened — specifically Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was even faced with a death threat. Nicholas Roske, 26, was arrested and charged after he allegedly intended to carry out a murder-suicide plot against Kavanaugh at his Maryland home.

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Congress ultimately passed a bill that would provide security protection to Supreme Court justices and their families, and President Biden signed that measure into law last month. 

Fox News’ Paul Best and Jon Brown contributed to this report.