Hatch, Feinstein introduce legislation to curb religious hate crimes

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the current ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in introducing the Protecting Religious Affiliated Institutions Act—a bipartisan proposal that will strengthen protections for religious minorities in the face of increasing persecution.


Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein, thank you for holding this important hearing today.  Religious liberty and the protection of the free exercise of religion are some of our nation’s foundational and fundamental principles.  That said, I am troubled by recent reports of increases in religious hate crimes not only in the United States, but also throughout the world.  Some of the recent examples included the more than 100 bomb threats made at Jewish Community Centers throughout this country, as well as the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and other cities.

In response to these and other religiously motivated hate crimes, the President addressed this issue during a Joint Session of Congress when he said, “We may be a nation divided on policies, but we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”  The Vice President also denounced these acts of religious intolerance when he said, “there is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.” 

As someone whose own pioneer ancestors were persecuted and driven from their homes, forced to settle deep in the rugged Mountain West, because of their Mormon beliefs, I agree that America must not tolerate religiously motivated hate crimes.  Yesterday I was joined by my friend, the Ranking Member, in introducing the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act.  I want to thank Senator Feinstein for joining me in authoring this bill, which would expand the Church Arson Prevention Act to criminalize threats made to intentionally deface, damage, or destroy any religious property or to threaten to obstruct, by force or threat of force, the enjoyment of a person’s free exercise of their religious beliefs.  I hope that in the coming weeks the Senate will consider and pass this legislation as a demonstration of our commitment to be united against evil and hate.

Senator Feinstein added, “Over the past year, we’ve seen an appalling increase in religious hate crimes against those believed to be Muslims, Jews, and of other faiths, including more than 100 bombs threats to Jewish Community Centers. Our bill makes clear that individuals will be held responsible for threats against synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions. These threats instill fear in entire communities and they must be treated with the seriousness that’s demanded.” 


This bill:

  • Expands the criminal code to include threats to intentionally deface, damage, or destroy any religious property or to threaten to obstruct—by force or threat of force—the enjoyment of a person’s free exercise of their religious beliefs.
  • The current law only criminalizes attempts or actual damage to religious property or obstruction of a person’s free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The bill is endorsed by the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.