Peters-Backed Bill to Increase Security Funding for Houses of Worship Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump has signed into law a bipartisan bill backed by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to provide grants to faith-based and nonprofit organizations to help secure their facilities against potential domestic terrorist attacks. Peters made the legislation a priority after a recent surge in prominent threats and attacks on religious institutions such as synagogues, churches, mosques and gurdwaras in communities across the country. In late December, five worshippers celebrating Hanukkah in the home of a Hasidic Rabbi in Monsey, New York were seriously wounded in an attack.

“We must take urgent action to protect synagogues, churches, and mosques from targeted attacks that we continue to see across the country,” said Senator Peters. “Houses of worship should be safe havens, and people of faith should feel secure when practicing their religion – it is a founding principle of this nation. I am proud that the President has signed my crucial bill into law, which will help religious leaders across the country safeguard their congregations from this targeted, hateful violence.”

Peters, a member of the bipartisan Senate Task Force for Combatting Anti-Semitism, introduced the bipartisan Senate bill, which authorizes $75 million annually over the next five years for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) with U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). U.S Representative Bennie Thompson, Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the legislation, funding may be used for securing facilities, personnel training, and other activities to help protect religious institutions from violent attacks. Peters also held a roundtable with faith leaders and law enforcement officials from the Detroit Metro area to discuss the need for additional security resources for faith-based institutions in Michigan.

Peters’ Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act has received support from a broad coalition of groups, including the NAACP, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and ACCESS.

Below are statements in support of the bipartisan legislation:

“We applaud Senators Portman and Peters and Congressman Thompson for championing HR 2476, a bill to 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.” JFNA worked closely with Congress to establish the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in 2004 and remains a leading advocate for the program.”

“Over the past year, we have seen the tragic consequences of violent hate directed against religious and ethnic groups, including unprecedented attacks against the Jewish community. The bipartisan passage of the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act is a critically important step in ensuring our synagogues and community institutions are safe, secure, and welcoming for all community members,” said Beverly Liss, President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “We are grateful for Senators Peters and Portman’s outstanding leadership on this matter and, on behalf of Jewish Detroit, applaud their success.”

“As we have seen in recent years, churches around the country have increasingly become targets for senseless, hate-fueled terrorist attacks,” said Reverend Dr. Deedee M. Coleman, Pastor of the Russell Street Baptist Church. “That’s why it’s vital that the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is available to faith leaders working to keep our congregations safe from harm.  I applaud Senator Peter’s efforts to provide these crucial resources to houses of worship in Michigan and around the country, and look forward to this bill becoming law.”

“As the Pastor a large Armenian Community in Michigan, I have a responsibility to care for not only the spiritual growth of my flock, but also the security and safety of my flock.  Tragically, recent events over these past number of years, have highlighted the tremendous need for additional precautions and enhanced security at houses of worship across the country,” said Father Aren Jebejian, of Saint John Armenian Church. “I was grateful to have the opportunity to work with Senator Peters and other religious leaders in this community to help spread the word that these resources are available to ensure that Americans of all faiths can worship in peace.  Together with our Parish Council and security teams, Senator Peters has been a champion for getting necessary resources for the benefit of our church’s safety.”

“In light of the horrible tragedies that have struck many religious communities across the country this past year, it has become clear that additional steps must be taken to safeguard houses of worship like ours,” said Sufian Nabhan, Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Detroit. “I am grateful for Senator Peters’ leadership on this issue, which will allow us to upgrade our security measures to better protect the families and children who make up our beloved community.”

“Mosques and other houses of worship should be safe havens, where followers can practice their religion without fear of persecution,” said Mahdi Ali, President of the American Moslem Society. “These security grants represent an important first step in safeguarding our communities against violence driven by hatred and bigotry. We are grateful for Senator Peters’ leadership in passing this important bill, and thankful for this support to help make our institutions safer.”

“At the Bharatiya Temple, we strive every day to provide our followers with a safe, peaceful and welcoming sanctuary in which to worship,” said Sridhar Srigiriraju, President of the Bharatiya Temple of Metropolitan Detroit. “We all pray for a day when these precautions will no longer be necessary, but in the meantime we are appreciative of Senator Peters’ efforts in arranging seminars and meetings to bring awareness of the program close to the communities. We also appreciate his leadership in expanding the program with more funding.”