US politicians support raising security grants for houses of worship

Senators, community leaders, supporting quadrupling security grants program for houses of worship

Senator Van Hollen alongside community leaders (photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)
Senator Van Hollen alongside community leaders
(photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)
BALTIMORE, Maryland – Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, alongside Representative John Sarbanes and Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders, called on Monday to quadruple the budget for the Nonprofit Security Grants Program (NSPG) for houses of worship, from $90 million to $360m.
Van Hollen and Cardin addressed the media in Baltimore and vowed to support the initiative– first presented by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York – after the antisemitic stabbing attack in Monsey, New York.
Last week, Congress authorized increased funding for the program by 50%, from $60m. in 2019 to $90m. in 2020.
The program allows houses of worship and other nonprofits to apply for grants of up to $100,000 for each institute. The money can be used for security measures such as fencing, cameras, stronger doors and hiring of security personnel.
Van Hollen told The Jerusalem Post he is confident the initiative would receive bipartisan support.
“I am confident that on a bipartisan basis, we will be able to increase these funds,” he told the media. “We need to do that because we’re, unfortunately, sadly, at this moment in our history seeing a dramatic increase in hate crimes motivated by anti-religious bigotry and racism. And this is the way we can do our part to help protect places of worship, even as we speak out to try to bring people together.”
“This is a very disturbing moment in our history,” Van Hollen said during the press conference. “The polarization and the division in the country runs deep, which is why it’s really important for faith leaders and political leaders and community leaders and every individual to take personal responsibility for speaking out against hate in all its forms. We have learned from tragedies of history that if you don’t speak out loudly and clearly against hate, then those who are perpetrating hate are more emboldened.”
Cardin said he intends to fight together with Van Hollen to increase the funding in next years’ budget.
“Whether it’s a mosque, a church, or a synagogue, it’s a vulnerable institute, and we all have to stand up united in fighting against all forms of hate,” Cardin said. “The first obligation we have as leaders is to make it clear that hate has no place in our community, and we will stand united with that message. But it’s important that we provide the tools to fight hate.
“Institutions need to be protected and less vulnerable to the types of attacks that can take place. So yes, it is important that we raise the amount of public support for nonprofit security to an appropriate level, and the $360 million that we’re asking for is a reasonable federal commitment to that end.”
Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union (OU) Advocacy Center, who spearheaded the NSPG, said increasing the budget is needed.
“We created [the program] out of a sense of concern and an abundance of caution for what was going on in the world at the time,” he said. “But we did not envision the nightmare that the Jewish community and other faith communities are experiencing today, where Jews had been assaulted on the streets of Brooklyn, murdered in a kosher grocery store in Jersey City and attacked in a home during a Hanukkah celebration.”