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Officials explain how vandalism at Church of The Ascension can be prosecuted

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 19:45:13-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan.  — On Sunday, Church of The Ascension in Overland Park, Kansas, was vandalized with red paint.

The alleged suspect painting explicits words, the phrase “My Body My Choice," along with the defacing a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now refurbished to the best of its ability, the Johnson County District Attorney and Overland Park Police Department are working to find some answers explaining why this not a freedom of speech, but a crime.

“The first amendment of the Constitution does not protect criminal behavior,” Steve Howe, the Johnson County District Attorney, said.

However, the stains in red left at the Church of the Ascension are not considered a hate crime, according to Howe.

“Well under the laws of the State of Kansas, there is not quote hate crime," Howe said. “It can be an enhancement factor to increase the penalties, if it is motivated based on hate of a certain group. So it could be eligible for that type of enhanced sentence.”

Howe told KSHB 41 News the sentencing for a crime like this varies.

“Well for those individuals when they are caught, they could face anywhere from a felony, to a criminal damage of property, depending on the extent of the damage, “ Howe said. “They could face a variety of penalties anywhere from a year in jail, or depending on their criminal history, up to a year or a year and a half to two to three years in the penitentiary.”

According to John Lacy, public information officer for the Overland Park Police Department, this act of vandalism happened early Sunday morning.

Lacy said that as of Monday, police are continuing to look for a suspect

“It’s my understanding that it was a female that was running north from the church,” Lacy said. “When you damage, or you do something like this, it’s a crime. So that’s the way we are looking at it.”

On Monday, groups like The Value Them Both Coalition — who support anti-abortion rights and Amendment 2 in the upcoming election — released a statement on the vandalism.

The attacks on the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park are heartbreaking and inexcusable. It has been well over 36 hours since these acts of anti-Catholic hatred took place, yet Kansans for Constitutional Freedom and other known anti-Value Them Both Amendment forces have not issued a statement condemning these hate-filled actions. This is not the first time vandalism has taken place at churches expressing support for the Value Them Both Amendment. The Value Them Both Coalition stands by our commitment to respect the first amendment by engaging in a peaceful, non-violent campaign and affirm that radical actions have no place in a civil society. We call upon Kansans for Constitutional Freedom and their allies in the anti-amendment coalition to condemn the hateful actions that took place at Ascension and the vandalism and theft that has taken place across Kansas. The people of Kansas deserve an honest debate about this issue based on facts — not vandalism and misleading advertisements. Furthermore, we call upon all leaders in the public square to join us in condemning these acts of hate, vandalism and theft.
Mackenzie Haddix, deputy communications director for the Value Them Both Coalition

The Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, who supports abortion rights and is against amendment 2, agreed with The Value Them Both Coalition's statement.

“Vandalism and theft are absolutely unacceptable. We do not encourage or condone these despicable actions. We understand that there are deeply held opinions on both side of this issue, but we encourage kansans to be respectful and civil in their discourse,” Ashley All, a spokesperson for Kansas for Constitutional Freedom, said.

In the meantime, both prosecutors and Overland Park police are asking the public to continue expressing their beliefs in a civil manner.

“There’s ways you can get on social media. You can air it out, but you can’t commit a crime," Lacy said. "And when you go and damage property, and you go and make that or anything like that, we are going to take action."