WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) be adequately funded to meet the needs of at-risk organizations this fiscal year. The funding allocated by this program will support nonprofit organizations most at risk through the acquisition and installation of physical target hardening measures, related preparedness and prevention planning, training, and exercises, and contracted security personnel so that religious and community-based organizations have the critical resources and tools they need to protect lives and property, and worship without fear. According to FBI data, among all victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019, 60.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by offenders’ anti-Jewish bias. This letter is in response to the violent attack that occurred last Saturday at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
“Violent extremists and terrorists continue to threaten our faith-based communities, as we saw in the recent antisemitic hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Texas,” said Senator Portman. “Now, more than ever, Congress needs to support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program as synagogues, religious and cultural facilities, and other nonprofits in Ohio and across our country remain vulnerable to acts of terrorism.”
“The most recent attack on the Jewish community in Colleyville, Texas was unconscionable and part of a rising trend in antisemitic and hate-fueled crimes across the country. No community should have to live in fear due to who they are or how they worship,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Nonprofit Security Grant Program will help make nonprofits deemed at risk of terrorist attacks safer through critical investments in their physical security. I will keep fighting to increase NSGP grants so that New Yorkers, and Americans across the country, can gather communally and worship freely and safely, against the threat of violence.”
“The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is a critical resource for houses of worship that want to protect against potential threats. The recent tragic attack against a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas is just the latest example of why this program needs robust funding,” said Senator Peters. “No American should fear for their safety when practicing their faith. That is why I have long fought to increase funding for this vital program so that houses of worship, cultural institutions and nonprofit organizations in Michigan and across the nation can improve their security and provide a safe haven for their congregations, especially in the wake of rising anti-Semitic and other faith-based attacks that continue to terrorize communities.”
“The recent heinous antisemitic attack in Colleyville, Texas has made clear just how persistent antisemitism continues to be in communities across our nation,” said Senator Rosen. “As a former synagogue president, I know first-hand how important it is to strengthen and protect Jewish institutions from the threat of violence and antisemitism. It is past time we increase the Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding to help save lives and keep communities safe.”
Every year, Congress must specifically allocate funding for the NSGP. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program helps nonprofits deemed by the Department of Homeland Security to be at risk of attack plan for and ready themselves against potential attacks. In addition to hardening facilities, this program has improved efforts to keep at-risk nonprofit organizations safe by promoting emergency preparedness coordination and collaboration activities between public and private community representatives, as well as with state and local government agencies.
In 2020, Senator Portman and Senator Peters’ bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act was signed into law. The legislation authorizes the NSGP from FYs 2020-2024, Senator Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law in late 2020.
The full text of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Shelby, Chairman Murphy, and Ranking Member Capito,
Thank you for your continued support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). As you finalize the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we respectfully ask you to fund NSGP at an appropriate funding amount that reflects the increased threat level to the nonprofit sector.
This weekend, another attack occurred on a faith-based institution, in what the FBI is calling a “terrorism-related” matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted. This attack underscores how extremists pose a threat to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups.
Saturday’s armed hostage event at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, could have ended tragically. It was one of many incidents reported this past year of racially and ethnically motivated violence that continues to target faith- and community based organizations, including shootings, arsons, bombings, assaults, and property damage. It crystalized how difficult it is for law enforcement to detect and prevent these threats before they occur, and it raised potential questions about our mechanisms to vet individuals coming to the United States who may do our citizens harm.
The nation is grateful to the FBI’s hostage rescue team and the state and local law enforcement and first responders who helped to end the hostage crisis and allowed Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three of his congregants to return home safely. However, the enormity and trauma of the event, much of it live-streamed, reverberated in communities across the country and served as a catalyst to energize more extremists and terrorist groups to act in kind.
Congress established NSGP to support the physical security and security activities of at-risk faith-based and other nonprofit organizations, who cannot shoulder alone the investments they require to deter, detect and prevent violent extremist attacks from happening in their communities. For this reason, and in recognition of the increased threat environment under which these organizations must navigate, we respectfully encourage you to appropriately fund NSGP in FY 2022. Congress should do all that it can to protect at-risk and vulnerable nonprofits from today’s increasing extremist and hate-motivated threats.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.