U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says the number of violent attacks on religious institutions and members of religious groups is a national crisis that demands a much stronger federal response.

Schumer cited the recent Hanukkah attack against the Hasidic Jewish community in Monsey, New York and the killings in the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, and outlined a plan to strengthen the federal government’s strategy against rising extremist attacks, especially those targeted against religious organizations. Schumer outlined two major points to begin the strengthening of a federal strategy:

  • Dramatically increase not-for-profit security grants (NPSG).
  • Increase support for federal programs to prosecute hate crimes.

The first part of Schumer’s plan demands a surge in what is called not-for-profit security grants (NPSG) that would take aim at this rising concern. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides funding to improve the security of nonprofit organizations at risk of being targeted for terror attacks. Synagogues, churches, mosques, schools and other faith-based community centers, like JCCs, are just a few examples of nonprofit organizations that could apply for these funds, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Schumer says he will launch another funding request in addition to the $90,000,000 NY secured. 

“With horrific hate crimes and terror attacks against places of worship and schools becoming more frequent, we must continue doing all we can to help protect people of all faiths worship and gather in safety and security,” added Schumer. “Federal security funds, like those provided through NSGP, are the cornerstone of effective preparedness and prevention against terror attacks and enable nonprofit organizations, like synagogues, churches, temples, JCCs and mosques, to improve their security. These dollars prevent tragedies and save lives, so while it is good news that as part of the federal budget deal we were able to secure an increase in these funds, we need to do it again because the state of the crisis demands it.”  

The second part of Schumer’s plan seeks to increase support for federal programs to prosecute hate crimes. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009. Among other things, the law authorized $5,000,000 for DOJ to provide ‘technical, forensic, prosecutorial or any other form of assistance’ to state and local law officials in the investigation or prosecution of a hate crime. It also allows DOJ to make grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation or prosecution of a hate crime.

“This rise in anti-Semitism, the attacks in churches, places of worship, and the notion that evil acts and intolerance might simply spread and reflect some new ‘normal’ is gravely unacceptable,” Schumer said.