Alaska Legislature

Alaska House votes to make church vandalism a felony; bill goes to Senate

Vandalism directed at a church or other property used by a religious organization would become a felony in Alaska if legislation passed by the state House of Representatives on Wednesday night becomes law.

The House voted 35-5 to approve House Bill 238, from Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, sending the bill to the Senate for further debate.

“I think it’s rational to say that when you commit harm to a house of worship, it should be more serious than an A misdemeanor,” Josephson said, referring to the class of crime that many acts of vandalism are under current law.

Speaking in favor of the bill, he said the defacement of a church draws “community-wide reaction and response” because it affects an entire congregation. If a single business is vandalized, it affects fewer people, he said.

Josephson said 42 states penalize church vandalism more heavily than vandalism of something like a park bench.

“I want to join those 42 other states,” he said.

The five “no” votes came from Reps. David Eastman, R-Wasilla; Ashley Carrick, D-Fairbanks; Sara Hannan, D-Juneau; CJ McCormick, D-Bethel; and Will Stapp, R-Fairbanks.


Hannan said she was dissatisfied with the fact that the bill treats church vandalism like a property crime. She would have preferred that it be considered a hate crime.

Eastman said that hate crimes require that prosecutors prove intent, and there is no intent standard in HB 238. He said that means someone might face a tougher criminal penalty for vandalizing a church even if they weren’t intending to target the church specifically.

Stapp had a simpler explanation for his no vote: It was a mistake that occurred because the final reconsideration vote took place at almost 1 a.m. Thursday morning, and he mis-voted after previously supporting the bill.

Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.