U.S. SENATE PASSES BIPARTISAN BILL TO PROTECT HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND NON-PROFITS

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[Religious News\H.R.2476]
Rep. Bennie Thompson: “It’s a sad fact that synagogues, churches, and mosques are facing the threat of violence at the hands of extremists of all ideologies. While we need to continue our work to eradicate all forms of extremism and counter domestic terrorism, non-profits need our help now in keeping their houses of worship safe and secure.”
Photo: YouTube

Historically, African-American churches have always faced racist attacks by fires and firebombing, as we see in the above picture of a church fire earlier this year in Louisiana. However, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques are now becoming regular targets of extremist attacks.

With the holiday season upon us, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators passed a bill Thursday to protect houses of worship and non-profits. The bill is important given the recent attacks of Black churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques.

Thursday, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), applauded the Senate passage of legislation (H.R. 2476) authorizing $75 million annually for FYs 2020-2024 for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which provides grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help secure their facilities against a potential terrorist attack.

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Thompson, is the companion to Portman and Peters’ bipartisan bill, the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act (S. 1539). Of the $75 million total, $50 million will be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator.

It’s a sad fact that synagogues, churches, and mosques are facing the threat of violence at the hands of extremists of all ideologies,” said Chairman Thompson. “While we need to continue our work to eradicate all forms of extremism and counter domestic terrorism, non-profits need our help now in keeping their houses of worship safe and secure. This bill will give key resources to help our communities have the peace of mind they deserve. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for recognizing the need for this bipartisan legislation and for getting it through Congress by the end of the year.”

Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one-way Congress can help address this unnecessary violence that has tragically become more and more common,” said Senator Portman. “As I’ve said many times, there is no place for hatred or bigotry of any kind toward our fellow citizens. The threats and senseless attacks we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values and this bipartisan legislation will help protect faith and cultural based institutions in Ohio and across our country.”

“In recent years, we have witnessed a tragic rise in threats and attacks on synagogues, churches, mosques, and other houses of worship throughout the country,” said Senator Peters. “We must do more to combat this senseless violence and ensure that Americans of all faiths can worship without fearing for their safety. I’m tremendously proud that the Senate has unanimously approved this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to the President’s signature on this important bill in the days to come.”

“We applaud Homeland Security Chairman Thompson and Senators Portman and Peters for championing HR 2476, which will strengthen and add greater certainty to Federal support for security and preparedness investments at faith-based and other at-risk nonprofit institutions,” said Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). “This bill ensures the continuation of FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program at a time of heightened threats and attacks against Jewish and other faith-based communal institutions.

NOTE: While the bill authorizes $75 million annually for the program, Congress can appropriate more. $90 million was included in the final FY 2020 appropriations agreement for this program.

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