Vandals graffitied a Colorado Catholic church with anti-church and abortion messages earlier this week, prompting some to suspect the church's pro-life stance, and the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, made it a target for a second time.
Police were called out to Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder on Wednesday morning for a report of vandalism. Investigators believe the incident took place on Tuesday night and that multiple suspects were involved.
That same morning, crews worked to remove painted messages from the church building that read," Abortion Saves Lives" and "My Body My Choice." In addition to the main building, crews also cleaned graffiti from church statues and removed broken glass from windows shattered by the vandals.
"We're disappointed that we can't have a peaceful conversation about such a hot topic and instead, people resort to violence. But we kind of understand, at least I do," parishioner Charlie Danaher said in a Wednesday interview with KMGH.
Danaher said the church displays a pro-life memorial every October, which he suspects might have something to do with the incident.
"For Respect Life Month, we put out 3,000 crosses, signifying how many abortions there are in the United States every single day," he said. "The first time this type of an attack occurred at our parish happened the first few days of October of last year. So this is a repeat."
The parishioner also believes the vandalism at Sacred Heart of Mary was related to the possibility that the Supreme Court might soon overturn Roe v. Wade. The court is expected to issue a decision in the coming months about whether to uphold Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case.
If the court rules in favor of the Mississippi ban, that could undermine the precedent set by Roe. A leaked draft opinion released earlier this week suggests that a majority of the justices are leaning toward overruling Roe.
Danaher, who has attended the church for years, contended that the church is not living in fear, despite the vandalism.
"We don't really dwell on that," he said. "Although we know, of course, that's the price that we may pay for being in this conversation and in this cultural battle, but we don't really dwell on that."
The sheriff's office also noted similarities between this year's vandalism and a previous incident at the church.
"The graffiti is similar in nature to what we saw at the church in September 2021 (anti-church, pro-choice messaging)," BCSO said in a statement to KMGH. "We can't yet conclusively say that it is related to September's incident, but the crimes are very similar in nature."
While no arrests have been made related to last year's vandalism case, the sheriff's office is reviewing surveillance video of the most recent incident and gathering evidence.
Last September, vandals spray-painted abortion slogans and anarchist symbols on a truck in the church parking lot and signs on the church property.
Church members also believe this incident was related to the white crosses the church puts on its lawn to symbolize the number of children in the U.S. who have been killed by abortion.
"It was way worse than I had pictured in my mind," Mark Evevard, the church's youth director, said in a 2021 interview with KMGH. "We care about the unborn, the sanctity of life all the way to death."
The youth director said that he did not expect everyone to agree with the church's pro-life views. But he did expect people to refrain from expressing their opinions through vandalism.
"It's sad because they obviously tried to do as much damage in as little time as possible," he said. "Even pro-choice people saying, 'we're pro-choice but this is ridiculous and this is wrong."
Sacred Heart of Mary estimated at the time that repairs for the damage would likely cost thousands of dollars. If the vandals were caught, BCSO said they could face criminal charges, including criminal mischief, trespassing, bias-motivated crime, or defacing property.
Still, Evevard revealed that he had encouraged those at Sacred Heart of Mary to pray for the vandals.
"We do love people and we care about that person. I really do hope that the person or persons, you know, would get the help that they need, the healing that they need."