Heinrich, McSally Introduce Legislation To Safeguard Faith-Based Community Centers, Houses of Worship

Legislation would add Homeland Security Grant Program funds to be used to safeguard faith-based community centers and houses of worship across the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 2, 2019) – In response to the murderous attacks at the Poway Synagogue in California and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides state and local law enforcement with adequate resources to protect faith-based community centers and houses of worship across the United States.

The bill would provide $75 million in additional funding to DHS under the existing State Homeland Security Grant Program, specifically dedicated to safeguarding faith-based community centers and houses of worship. The bill would also double the federal penalty against making fake bomb threats from five years to 10 years.

“Words matter and political rhetoric that condones violence and intolerance is contributing to a rising tide of hate crimes,” said Heinrich. “In this country we celebrate, not discourage, religious diversity. This bill would ensure that houses of worship and faith-based community centers across America can be safeguarded, while federal agencies hold those that instigate hatred, intolerance, and violence accountable.” 

“No American should ever live in fear of worshipping and practicing their faith,” said McSally. “America will not tolerate attacks on our freedom of religion. This legislation would provide federal resources to houses of worship and faith-based community centers to protect them from hate and violence and make those who target faith-based entities answer to the federal government.” 

Shelly Prant, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) of Greater Albuquerque, issued the following statement of support of the legislation, “On behalf of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Albuquerque and over 100 JCCs across America, we are extremely grateful to Senator Heinrich’s introduction of the Faith Based Community Center Act, as it will provide the much-needed protection for the Jewish Community Centers. The introduction of this bill is extremely timely as anti-Semitism and attacks against faith-based institutions continues to rise. We need to stand together to end the hate that is motivating these attacks. We are in much need of this added protection and will appreciate the support given to support this bill.” 

On May 1, 2019, Senators Heinrich and McSally sent a letter with 31 bipartisan colleagues to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security requesting $75 million for safeguarding faith-based communities. Senator Heinrich also played a leading role in urging the Trump Administration to appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. 

A copy of the bill text is available HERE.