ICYMI: Nadler Praises Bipartisan Bill to Protect Religiously Affiliated Institutions

Dec 12, 2017 Issues: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, the House passed H.R. 1730, the “Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act,”  by a vote of 402-2.  This bill would extend protections under current federal law for “religious real property.”  Currently, Section 247 of the Federal Criminal Code prohibits both the damaging of religious property because of the property’s religious character and the intentional obstruction — by force or threats of force — of anyone’s exercise of religious beliefs. 

H.R. 1730 would clarify that threats of force against religious property are included in this prohibition.  Additionally, the measure would provide that the damaging or obstructing of such property that results in damages exceeding $5,000 constitutes a felony punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.  Finally, the bill would clarify that real property covered by the statute includes property leased by a non-profit, religiously-affiliated organization.

The importance of this legislation is underscored by the recent upsurge in bomb threats, hate crimes, and vandalism committed against communities of faith.  For instance, more than 150 bomb threats were made against Jewish Community Centers in the first quarter of this year alone.  And, there has been an alarming surge in the number of threats, vandalism, and arson committed against mosques over the past year.

In response to House passage of this bill, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stated:

“Recently, our country has been experiencing a surge in hate crimes – including those committed against communities of faith. In 2016, the hate crimes statistics released by the FBI indicate that anti-Semitic hate crimes increased 20% from the prior year. 

“Our country was founded on the principles of religious liberty, and while we may disagree with the religious practices of others, it is never acceptable to use physical obstruction, force, or threats of force to deny others the right to worship. 

“I believe it is not only appropriate but necessary for Congress to strengthen our laws against these types of acts so that no American has to choose between their faith and their safety. And I am pleased that this important bill, which was adopted by the Judiciary Committee, has now been passed by the House of Representatives.”