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Rep. Thompson authors bill to protect churches from terrorism

Photo courtesy of Congressman Bennie Thompson

The bipartisan legislation which protects churches and religious organizations from terrorist attacks. The bill was passed in the House and will ensure necessary Federal support to protect the safety of non-profits at risk of terrorism, including synagogues, mosques, churches, and other places of worship.

The bill, H.R. 2476, the Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2019, was authored by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, along with Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Max Rose (D-NY), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), and Troy Balderson (R-OH).

“In just the first six months of 2019, the level of bloodshed in places of worship has shocked the world,” said Thompson. “It’s painfully clear that these houses of worship are under threat of violence committed by terrorists of all extreme ideologies. We urgently must address the root causes of hatred and extremism, but in the short-term, these synagogues, mosques, and churches need our help and protection just to stay safe. Nobody should feel threatened while praying, and I’m proud the House passed my bill to help give our communities the peace of mind they deserve.”

In recent years, there has been an increase in violence and threats of violence against nonprofit institutions.  On April 27, a gunman opened fire on congregants at a Passover celebration in a California synagogue, killing one person and injuring three others.  Other noteworthy attacks against innocent people in houses of worship include the April 21 coordinated terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people and injured more than 500 people; the March 15 deadly New Zealand mosque shootings, where 50 people were killed; the 2018 Pittsburgh “Tree of Life” synagogue shooting, where 11 people were killed; the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting, where 26 people killed; the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, where nine people were killed; and the 2012 shooting at a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, WI.

The legislation would authorize a security grant program within the Department of Homeland Security for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations that are at risk of a terrorist attack. The grant funding would assist targeted organizations with costs related to:

  • acquiring and installing security equipment;
  • hiring security personnel;
  • and security training for key personnel to prevent or protect against attacks.

“We applaud Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson for introducing and the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 2476, today,” said William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America. “This bipartisan bill will strengthen security and preparedness at faith-based and other at-risk nonprofit institutions. Since September 11th, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks from across the ideological spectrum. This bill will bolster the ability of nonprofits to counter those threats by providing needed resources for target hardening, and the integration of nonprofit preparedness activities with broader state and local preparedness efforts.”

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