BACKGROUNDER: Biden-Harris Administration Takes Steps to Protect Places of Worship

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Ten years ago, a gunman attacked the Wisconsin Sikh temple in the town of Oak Creek. Six people died and four were injured, and a seventh victim died from his injuries in 2020.

Tragically, threats and acts of violence against places of worship have increased over the past 10 years, both in the United States and abroad. Recent fatal shootings at places of worship in the United States include attacks on Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee; First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Chabad of Poway in Poway, CA; West Freeway Church of Christ in Tarrant County, Texas; Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California; Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa; and St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

President Biden has pledged to do everything in his power to ensure that Americans can practice their faith without fear. As President Biden has said, “We must be vigilant against the rising tide of targeted violence and hatred at home and abroad, and ensure that no one is afraid to attend a religious service. , to a school or community centre, or to walk down the street. street bearing the symbols of their faith. It is a fundamental tenet of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom for all. The Biden-Harris administration will continue to work side by side with Americans of all faiths and beliefs to safeguard these cherished principles and uphold our nation’s founding promise as an enduring citadel of diversity, unity, and mutual respect.

To achieve these goals, President Biden has signed and his administration is implementing laws that will make communities safer, including the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and the Jabara-Heyer Act. NO HATE. The administration is also taking executive action to: reduce gun violence; prioritize efforts to combat hate crimes, including crimes committed on the basis of religious identity or affiliation; and implement the first-ever national strategy to combat domestic terrorism. These efforts protect all individuals, including those who gather in places of worship.

The Biden-Harris administration is also protecting places of worship and worshipers by taking additional steps, including:

Increase funding to secure places of worship and other nonprofit entities

  • In fiscal year 2022, the administration implemented a nearly 20% increase in funding — from $180 million to $250 million — through the nonprofit Security Grants Program ( NSGP) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which provides support to increase the physical security of nonprofit organizations. organizations, including houses of worship and other affiliated religious entities. President Biden has called for $360 million for this key program in his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) has updated a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to clarify and emphasize that Byrne JAG funding can be used by state and local governments to augment patrols and deployments that reinforce the safety of non-profit organizations at risk, including churches. , gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship.

Create a single online clearinghouse of federal resources designed to combat terrorism and targeted violence prevention

  • As required by the National Strategy to Combat Homeland Terrorism, federal departments and agencies are collaborating to create a one-stop online clearinghouse to help users easily navigate and access a wide range of available federal resources. to support the prevention of terrorism and targeted violence.

Increase coordination and strengthen resources

  • The White House established the Interagency Policy Committee on Safeguarding Places of Worship, co-chaired by the Homeland Policy Council and the National Security Council, to coordinate interagency efforts for the safety and security of places of worship .
  • DHS piloted a new initiative to improve threat information sharing with community and faith-based partners to include information on emerging threats, products, and suspicious activity reporting.
  • DHS has developed an unclassified online training on identifying, assessing, and reporting suspicious activity designed for non-governmental partners, including faith-based and community organizations.
  • DHS has enabled faith-based partners to access threat information and products through the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), which serves as the Department’s secure platform for sharing unclassified information on the threats. This includes information on threats to faith groups, facilities and places of worship, as well as potential motivating factors for religion-related violence. DHS field staff also engage directly with faith-based organizations to share information about threats, as well as resources available to support faith-based organizations’ efforts to prevent, protect, and respond to threats.
  • The National Counterterrorism Center has updated the Threats to places of worship highlight importance of outreach to religious community product, which raises awareness of potential threats to places of worship, faith-based organizations and religious leaders and recommends best practices for engaging faith communities.
  • Federal partners have developed and deployed the following services designed to support faith-based organizations, including:
    • Tabletop exercise packages to help faith-based stakeholders conduct their own exercises, with scenarios including active shooters, vehicle ramming and improvised explosive devices.
    • A webinar highlighting best practices for preventing targeted violence and protecting the safety and security of places of worship.
    • Tips for places of worship to protect themselves against arson.
    • Protecting Places of Worship Forums to provide religious leaders and congregations with information on hate crimes committed on the basis of religion, state and federal hate crime laws, law enforcement threat assessments and ways to protect places of worship from potential hate crimes and other threats of violence.

Expand engagement with faith-based and community organizations, including historically underrepresented communities

  • In support of National Preparedness Month in September 2022, DHS will launch a national week of action encouraging faith-based and community organizations to protect people and places through partnerships with local emergency officials and first responders . This week of action will include virtual and in-person workshops and the release of multimedia content for faith-based and community organizations.
  • The Interagency Policy Committee on the Protection of Places of Worship plans to launch a network promoting peer-to-peer learning on the protection of places of worship and community spaces. Opportunities for faith-based and community organizations to join the Partnership Network will be available beginning in late fall 2022.

Make grant programs more accessible and equitable

  • DHS has simplified the NSGP application process by developing a “quick start guide” to help nonprofits navigate the process. To ensure that current and future NSGP grantees know what is required and expected to successfully administer a grant, DHS will offer a Post-award grant management webinar series specific to nonprofits as awardees.
  • Nonprofits located in socially vulnerable areas (as determined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index) as well as nonprofits that have never received an NSGP award will receive bonus points in the final scoring methodology to help build their ability to be selected for funding.
  • DHS has added a new priority to its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP): Advance equity in rewards and engage underserved communities in prevention. The TVTP Grant Program team developed and implemented a communications plan to increase the diversity of program applicants.
  • The DOJ further makes its hate crimes grant programs, as well as its training and technical assistance, more accessible and user-friendly to a wide range of stakeholders. For example, the DOJ has issued several solicitations that give priority consideration to applicants who propose projects that address equity or remove barriers to access and opportunity for communities that have been historically marginalized, underserved, and affected. by inequalities.
  • In fall 2022, the DOJ will launch a series of webinars to help community-based and culturally-specific organizations (including faith-based organizations) apply for federal grants, be able to maintain and grow their programming, and better support organizations. cultural specificities. innovations and services.
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