Churches could get security funding

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the unanimous passage of bipartisan legislation he championed in the Senate to provide grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help secure their facilities against potential 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.

The bill authorizes $75 million annually over the next five years for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).

Under the legislation, funding may be used for securing facilities, personnel training, and other activities to help protect these institutions from violent attacks.

The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“In recent years, we have witnessed a tragic rise in threats and attacks on synagogues, churches, mosques, and other houses of worship throughout the country,” said Senator Peters. “We must do more to combat this senseless violence and ensure that Americans of all faiths can worship without fearing for their safety. I’m tremendously proud that the Senate has unanimously approved this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to the President’s signature on this important bill in the days to come.”

Earlier this year, Peters authored bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate to authorize $75 million annually to DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program 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. 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.”

“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.”

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