September 27, 2003


Man guilty of damaging churches (DAN ROZEK, 9/27/03, Chicago Sun-Times)

A Joliet man who authorities said targeted churches because of his hostility to religion pleaded guilty Friday to robbing and vandalizing nine DuPage County churches and religious schools.

During one break-in, 41-year-old Jamie Pytell beheaded and desecrated a statue of Jesus Christ, prosecutors said. He also set small fires during at least two of the burglaries, authorities said. [...]

Pytell confessed during interviews with police to committing the break-ins, telling them that several happened during fits of rage at religious institutions. A law enforcement source said after Pytell was arrested last year that the attacks took place because Pytell "hates religion." [...]

While Jacobs had raised concerns about Pytell's mental state, Pytell was found mentally fit to stand trial in August, although he remains on psychotropic medication while being held in the DuPage County Jail.

Pytell vandalized and burglarized churches of different denominations, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Christian Fellowship.

One of the most ridiculous, yet widely accepted, stories of recent years concerned the supposedly racially-motivated epidemic of black church burnings. It turns out that there are a series of perfectly logical reasons why churches--predominantly white, predominantly black, and everything in between--are victims of fire. First, the buildings are often old and susceptible to fire of the accidental sort. Second, they're unoccupied and don't have much security so they're inviting targets for vandals. Third, as above, they tend to be the target of mentally-ill people. Many of the unbalanced seem to enjoy expressing their rage at God by lighting his buildings on fire. If such arsons are hate crimes they are not primarily fueled by racial but by religious animus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2003 10:38 AM

That wasn't vandalism and burglary. He was just exercising his free speech rights in the only way in which he could properly show his displeasure with Christianity.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 27, 2003 11:42 AM

You kidding? Around here folks think he'd have been committing a crime if he knocked on the front door.

Posted by: oj at September 27, 2003 12:05 PM

But former President Clinton remembered it so well!

Posted by: Rick T. at September 27, 2003 4:54 PM

The last two sentences don't track. These people are mentally ill, and hate God as a consequence. The arsons are fueled not by religious animus, but by mental illness.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 28, 2003 8:00 AM


Think about it.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2003 11:12 AM


What Orrin said. Have you deduced that scientifically or are you relying on secular faith?

Posted by: Peter B at September 28, 2003 7:37 PM

Sorta like when a Bible reader shoots his family, Jeff, 'cause the Lord told him to.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2003 2:54 AM

Funny, Jeff, how when one of ours mows down an abortionist, you see him as a stormtrooper for the secret theocratic conspiracy (fueled by a "religious animus"), but when one of yours burns dowm churches, he is just an isolated sicko.

Oh well, I guess I should be grateful you aren't arguing that he was "driven" to do it by all those menancing fundamentalists, thus pinning responsibility for both on religion. I think Harry is.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2003 6:08 AM


Exactly! That man too is unbalanced precisely because he misunderstands God.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2003 7:56 AM