The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Governor of the Theocratic Republic of Texas Says God Stops Crime

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, of God’s Own Party, claimed “We need to restore God in our communities. If we do that, we will be able to reduce crime in this region.”

This is popular in Republican circles. Recently North Carolina’s Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson made similar absurd remarks in very poor English.

“It’s too late now. Your little half-hearted attempts at soothing Jesus Christ, it’s not gonna work. You done kicked God out of your school. Children don’t know whether they men or women, they’re murdering each other with impunity and can’t read on a grade level, all because you done turned your back on the wisdom of the man that built that schoolhouse you in.”

Unlike a lot of other fantasies espoused by the religious Right this one is easily fact checked. Of course, some people prefer faith to facts and when facts contradict their faith—which tends to be the case—they just ignore the facts.

One thing we know is public opinion polls show which states are populated by the most religious people and the least religious people. Gallup surveyed thousands of people in all 50 states asking them how religious they are. They determined the ten most religious states were Mississippi, Alabama, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska and North Carolina. The ten least religious states were Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

We can see how crime relates to the presence of “God” in the states by looking at violent crime rates in the most religious states compared to the least religious states.

Violent Crime Rates by State: Most Religious States per 100,000

Mississippi — — 277.9
Alabama — — 510.8
Utah — — 235.6
Louisiana — — 549.3
Arkansas — — 584.6
South Carolina — — 511.3
Tennessee —— 592.5
Nebraska —— 300.9
North Carolina — — 371.8

The average violent crime rate for the most religious states is 393.47 per 100,000 population. Now, if Governor Abbott is remotely close to being right there should be a dramatically higher crime rate in the least religious states.

Violent Crime Rates by State: Least Religious States per 100,000

Vermont — — 202.2
Maine — — 115.2
New Hampshire — — 152.5
Massachusetts — — 327.6
Nevada — — 493.8
Oregon — — 284.4
Washington — — 293.9
Hawaii — — 285.5
Alaska — — 867.1
California — — 441.2

Unfortunately for Gov. Abbott and his claim the violent crime rate average in the ten least religious states is lower than the violent crime rate in the most religious states: 346.34 per 100,000 population compared to 393.47.

One problem in comparing states is we are comparing some very rural states to more urbanized states and violent crime tends to be higher in urban settings than in rural ones. More people tends to mean more crimes. But it is possible to compare the most Christian urban areas with the least Christian ones; that removes the problem of comparing urban to rural areas.

The evangelical Barna Group lists 100 urban areas across America and rates them as being “post-Christian” or not. For them post-Christians are people who either don’t believe in God, don’t pray, say faith is unimportant, etc. The criteria they use would also exclude non-evangelicals but I don’t think Abbott would have a problem with that.

For the urban states I have to use a number of sources as not all sources list all cities. I will start with the least Christian urban areas and their violent crime rates.

Urban Violent Crime Rates by Least Religious Areas per 100,000

Springfield, MA — — 914
Portland, ME — — 544.6
Providence, RI — — 496.2
Burlington, VT ——405
Boston, MA — — 622
Albany, NY — — 757
Hartford, CT — — 200.4
Rochester, NY — — 748.4
Santa Barbara, CA — — 596
Seattle, WA — — 748.4

The average number of violent crimes in the ten least religious urban areas was 603.2 per 100,000 population.

Urban Violent Crime Rates by Most Religious Areas per 100,000

Charleston, WV — — 774
Knoxville, TN — — 667.3
Baton Rouge, LA — — 936.3
Wichita, KS — — 1141
Salt Lake City, UT — — 712.4
Harrisburg, PA — — 900.5
Richmond, VA — — 462.9
Mobile, AL — — 657.1
Kansas City, KS — — 1596
Corpus Christi, TX — —434.4

The average number of violent crimes in the ten most religious urban areas is 828.19 per 100,000 population. The more religious urban areas have a violent crime rate 37.3% higher than the less religious urban areas while the ten most religious states have a violent crime rate 13.6% higher than the ten least religious states.

If you want to break it down to simplistic causal arguments—which I think is wrong, but Gov. Abbott seems to enjoy—the evidence would tend to support the exact opposite of what Abbott claimed: the more religious the state the higher the violent crime rate.

This map shows homicide rates by states. You are free to compare it to the map at the top of the page showing the most religious stats versus the least religious states.

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James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.