More funds to fight hate

State leg­is­la­tors, faith lead­ers urge in­creased fund­ing for se­cu­rity

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan M. Pitts

Govern­ment fund­ing for the pro­tec­tion of syn­a­gogues, mosques and churches has been on the rise in Mary­land and across the United States in the past half-decade and more, but leg­is­la­tors and faith lead­ers are call­ing for a vast in­crease in such fund­ing as threats against re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions persist.

Mary­land’s U.S. sen­a­tors, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Rep. John Sar­banes, and Jewish, Chris­tian and Mus­lim lead­ers were among those who gath­ered Mon­day at Bal­ti­more He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion in Pikesville to back a pro­posal call­ing for a qua­dru­pling of fund­ing pro­vided by the fed­eral Non­profit Se­cu­rity Grant Pro­gram, to $360 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2021.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity re­ceived a 50% in­crease in fund­ing for the pro­gram, to $90 mil­lion, as part of the bud­get for fis­cal year 2020.

Demo­cratic U. S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York floated the pro­posal for a fur­ther in­crease af­ter the stab­bing last month of five peo­ple at a Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion in the New York City sub­urbs and a re­cent string of at­tacks against Jews in the streets of Brook­lyn, New York. He has said the ap­par­ent rise in such at­tacks in New York and else­where have ren­dered in­ad­e­quate even the re­cent in­creases in fund­ing.

“Amer­ica is in a na­tional cri­sis. I’m call­ing for much stronger fed­eral ac­tion to in­crease funds to pro­tect places of worship and pros­e­cute hate crimes,”

Schumer tweeted Dec. 31 as he in­tro­duced the idea.

Van Hollen agreed with his Se­nate col­league on the ur­gency of the sit­u­a­tion.

“We have to come to­gether here in the state of Mary­land and across the coun­try to con­front this hate and di­vi­sion, not just through words, but in our ac­tions,” said Van Hollen, a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the U.S. Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee who sup­ported the in­crease in the cur­rent bud­get.

Bal­ti­more faith lead­ers said they could use any in­creased fund­ing to har­den se­cu­rity in houses of worship and to sup­port out­reach pro­grams that would en­cour­age aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing across faith tra­di­tions.

Bal­ti­more Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori, Bal­ti­more Jewish Coun­cil Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Howard Libit and Mubaraz Razvi of the United Mary­land Mus­lim Coun­cil were among the faith lead­ers and lo­cal leg­is­la­tors who also called for unity in the face of acts of ha­tred.

“The con­crete steps we sup­port here are vi­tally im­por­tant,” Lori said dur­ing his re­marks, “but let us also con­tinue to put our faith in the sim­ple act of com­ing to­gether, stand­ing side by side to demon­strate the love that will al­ways be a greater power than evil.”

Es­tab­lished in 2002 in re­sponse to the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks on New York and the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area, the Non­profit Se­cu­rity Grant Pro­gram al­lows houses of worship to apply for up to $100,000 in grants to im­prove their pro­tec­tion against ter­ror at­tacks.

Mary­land or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ceived more than $3 mil­lion last year through the pro­gram, in­clud­ing grants to Bal­ti­more He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion, Sub­ur­ban Ortho­dox To­ras Chaim in Pikesville, the Is­lamic So­ci­ety of An­napo­lis, and the Bal­ti­more Catholic dio­cese.

Such fund­ing has been “vital” in Mary­land — a state “that has a long and proud tra­di­tion of re­li­gious tol­er­ance,” Lori said — in help­ing “Catholic, Jewish, Mus­lim and other re­li­gious groups, and other non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions … to pro­vide se­cu­rity-re­lated train­ing and se­cu­rity equip­ment, as well as to un­der­take other se­cu­rity-en­hanc­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Bal­ti­more- area in­sti­tu­tions have re­ceived more than $11 mil­lion over the his­tory of the pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to Libit, in­clud­ing about $1.45 mil­lion awarded last fall.

Lori said St. John’s Re­gional Catholic School in Fred­er­ick has been one ben­e­fi­ciary in Mary­land, and Rud­wan Abu-rum­man, pres­i­dent of the Anne Arun­del County Mus­lim Coun­cil, said the Is­lamic So­ci­ety of An­napo­lis has re­ceived $200,000.

Libit said Mary­land’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion has worked in a bi­par­ti­san way to in­crease the flow of grants to the state and to the Bal­ti­more area, in par­tic­u­lar, over the past few years.

He added that their ef­forts “helped in­spire lead­er­ship in An­napo­lis,” as Re­pub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan and the Demo­cratic-con­trolled Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly “have led the cre­ation of state pro­grams over the past two years that are cre­at­ing new pools of money” to help cre­ate “bet­ter se­cu­rity at our schools and in­sti­tu­tions at risk of hate crimes.”

He pointed to state fund­ing that ded­i­cated $2 mil­lion to en­hanc­ing se­cu­rity for re­li­gious schools and child-care cen­ters, $3 mil­lion for places of worship, and $3.5 mil­lion for se­cu­rity up­grades at ag­ing nonpublic schools, all as part of the cur­rent bud­get. The $2 mil­lion fig­ure rep­re­sents a dou­bling of the pre­vi­ous year’s to­tal.

At a time when se­cu­rity costs at syn­a­gogues and other houses of worship are sky­rock­et­ing, the fund­ing is “making a dif­fer­ence,” Libit said.

De­spite the in­creases, speak­ers such as Cardin, Van Hollen and Nathan Di­a­ment, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for pub­lic pol­icy for the Union of Ortho­dox Jewish Con­gre­ga­tions of Amer­ica, said more money is needed at a time of fright­en­ingly fre­quent re­li­gious hate crimes.

Di­a­ment cited the re­cent at­tacks in New York, as well as fire­bomb­ings of mosques and shoot­ings at churches as he ap­plauded Cardin, Van Hollen and Sar­banes for join­ing the push for a dramatic in­crease at the fed­eral level.

When he worked with coali­tion part­ners to help es­tab­lish the Non­profit Se­cu­rity Grant Pro­gram 17 years ago, he said, “we did not en­vi­sion the night­mare that the Jewish com­mu­nity and other f aith com­mu­ni­ties are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing to­day.”

“The con­crete steps we sup­port here are vi­tally im­por­tant, but let us also con­tinue to put our faith in the sim­ple act of com­ing to­gether, stand­ing side by side to demon­strate the love that will al­ways be a greater power than evil.”

—Bal­ti­more Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori

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