Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after his bill, The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017, passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
This bipartisan proposal will strengthen protections for religious entities and their properties in the face of increasing persecution.
“Houses of worship and affiliated community centers should be safe places for Americans of all beliefs. This legislation is a direct response to a marked increase in threats against religious institutions, and it makes clear that such threats are prohibited under federal law. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate for their hard work in getting this bill through Congress, and I urge the President to quickly sign it into law.”
Hatch’s bill clarifies that federal law prohibits threats toward religious institutions. It also modestly increases the criminal penalty for cases in which the underlying conduct causes significant damage or destruction, and clarifies that “religious real property” includes property that is leased by religious institutions.
The legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April. Click here for full release.
The bill has been endorsed by various religious groups, including Agudath Israel of America and the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Both groups have written letters of support that the Senator has requested be placed in the Congressional Record.
Statements of Support
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Vice President for Federal Government Affairs, Washington Director, and Counsel—Agudath Israel of America:
“Threats against religious institutions have, for decades, been a cause for concern…the ultimate goal of such threats is to instill fear and to intimidate or obstruct a religious adherent’s ability to exercise his or her religious beliefs. These actions should not be tolerated in our nation…. We congratulate you on sponsoring this important legislation, and we urge members to speedily report it favorably out of committee.”
Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council:
“Since January 2017, at least five mosques have suffered arson attacks while dozens of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and other religious institutions have been vandalized. These attacks infringe on the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion. Moreover, crimes against religious institutions are intending to create an atmosphere of fear that deters community members from attending worship services and social involvement. They pose a danger to the religious freedom and security of all Americans. Let’s work together and reverse the rise in hate crimes. We urge speedy action on the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018.”