‘Particularly vigilant’ — Reston church damaged, Arlington diocese says parishes are ‘alert’

Fairfax County Police say an investigation into graffiti and arson at a Reston, Virginia, church is underway, as reaction to a divisive Supreme Court ruling that overturned landmark abortion cases continues.

“The remarks spray painted were related to the recent Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling,” the department said. “Officers are working with the staff of the church to review surveillance footage.”

According to police, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue responded just before 7 a.m. on Sunday to a report of “smoldering mulch” at the St. John Neumann Catholic Community Church.

Fire and rescue told police that they believed an accelerant was used to spark the flames and saw spray paint on a sign at the church entrance.

Parishes prepared long before the decision

The Diocese of Arlington said that recent developments put parishes like Lady of the Blue Ridge Catholic Church “on high alert” in the weeks before the Dobbs decision was handed down from the high court.

“After the Supreme Court leak earlier this Spring, we contacted our parishes to alert them to the risk of violence or vandalism,” said Billy Atwell, spokesperson for the diocese.

Atwell added that recent threats have pushed parishes toward becoming “alert and particularly vigilant.”

“Parishes have security protocols in place to help address these types of situations,” Atwell said, “and a key part of that plan is having a strong relationship with local law enforcement.”

Fairfax County Police have confirmed increased patrols around parishes in the area and committed to working with regional partners to find the culprit.

This comes less than 24 hours after Gov. Glenn Youngkin highlighted a church-affiliated crisis pregnancy center in Lynchburg, Virginia, that was vandalized.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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