Legislators Seek Money to Protect Houses of Worship

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Local, state and federal lawmakers are seeking funds to protect houses of worship after a series of deadly shootings. The days of the church with its doors propped open at all hours may be over, the Wall Street Journal reports. New York city council members want to include money for security at houses of worship in the  budget, while Connecticut state legislators want $5 million to pay for measures like cameras and shatterproof windows. U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced legislation this month to authorize $75 million to help secure religious gathering places and other nonprofits, up from $60 million last year. The grants fund everything from surveillance cameras to active-shooter training, a step more religious organizations are taking. “Places of worship should be a safe haven,” Peters said. “Tragically, the rise in the number of violent attacks at synagogues, mosques and churches … has shattered that expectation.”

Last month’s shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego was the latest deadly attack on houses of worship. This year, a gunman killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques. Last year, 11 people were killed in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue; in 2017, a gunman killed 26 at a Texas church. Long considered soft targets because they are open to all comers, religious places have been adding security An industry around providing that security is growing. Sarah Levin of the Secular Coalition for America said such grants need also to be made to nonreligious groups, as is the case with Department of Homeland Security grants. She noted that many secular nonprofits, such as abortion clinics, also were targets of violence. A recent survey from Church Mutual, an insurance company focused on worship centers, found that 12 percent of Americans who attend religious services regularly don’t feel safe.

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