WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to examine the threat of violent extremism and terrorism against houses of worship and other public spaces. The committee heard from senior law enforcement, national security, and public safety officials on how the federal government is working to combat these ongoing threats and protect targets like houses of worship, which continue to face horrific and deadly terror attacks. During the hearing, Peters highlighted the importance of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) that provides resources to houses of worship and other nonprofit organizations that want to secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks. Peters led the authorization of this essential program last Congress, and has helped secure substantial funding increases in recent years, including $250 million in the funding bill that was signed into law earlier this week. In addition to discussing existing resources like the NSGP, Peters also pressed the witnesses on how they can better track quickly growing and changing security threats to our communities – such as lone actor attacks on public spaces including shopping centers and entertainment venues, and the recent bomb threats made to Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country.
“These insidious, hateful attacks not only take lives and cause physical injuries, they also destroy sacred property and leave deep traumatic scars on entire communities. Everyone across this nation deserves to feel safe where they live, work, and pray,” said Senator Peters during his opening statement. “We have seen pervasive threats, and devastating attacks wherever people gather, from the Pulse night club attack to the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and more recently during the nationwide bomb threats targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”
Peters continued: “These diffuse and rising threats raise serious questions about the rapidly evolving landscape of homeland security threats that communities across the country are facing – and how federal agencies can better address them to protect Americans as they go about their daily lives.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions and closing, click here.
At the hearing, Peters and the witnesses discussed the threat posed by lone actors who are inspired by online rhetoric – including on social media platforms – to commit horrific acts of violence against vulnerable communities. In particular, the committee heard how national security agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, work to track and monitor violent extremist activity online, while respecting civil rights and liberties. The committee also heard about ongoing threats to religious institutions and other public spaces – and examined what more intelligence agencies should do to provide local law enforcement with the necessary insight to protect every American from violent extremist threats. Finally Peters and the witnesses discussed what resources and tools are available to faith-based and community organizations who wish to protect themselves from deadly attacks.
In his role on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Peters has led efforts to protect religious institutions and vulnerable communities that are under threat from terror attacks. Peters convened two hearings to examine needed actions to address the rise of white supremacist, religiously motivated, and anti-government violence. As a part of the government funding bill that President Biden signed into law on Tuesday, Peters helped secure nearly $250 million for the NSGP, a $70 million increase from previous funding levels. Last year, Peters announced that nearly $3.5 million was given to nonprofits and faith-based organizations across Michigan to help secure their facilities against potential attacks.