Reps. Kilmer, Kustoff Pass Bill to Protect Religious Institutions

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and David Kustoff (R-TN) today applauded House passage of their bill, the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017. This strong bipartisan legislation will increase the federal penalties for bomb threats and other credible threats of violence against religious institutions.

Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA): “Across our country, too many people have been subjected to hate, violence and threats because of the religion they practice. People who have come to a religious community center to take a class, exercise or support their neighbors have faced bomb threats and violence. With this bill, our government is saying with one voice: ‘Enough is enough.’”

Congressman David Kustoff (R-TN): “The dramatic rise in threats against religious institutions is deeply disturbing and makes it clear that existing federal laws do not suitably deter these acts of hate. We must stand united against acts of hate and protect the rights of all Americans to worship freely and without fear. I am proud that our bipartisan bill today passed in the House. I look forward to the Senate’s consideration, so we can send this important legislation to President Trump’s desk.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA): “Freedom in the exercise of religion is a fundamental right that our founding fathers chose to place as the first recognized right in our Bill of Rights. It is as important to protect these rights today.  Sadly, we have witnessed many threats and acts of violence against religious institutions and centers and we must ensure our laws appropriately punish those seeking to intimidate people of faith. The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act strengthens prosecutorial tools to deter acts of hate and violence toward religious institutions so that freedom of religion continues to flourish in America. I thank Congressman Kustoff for his hard work on this bipartisan bill and applaud the House for quickly passing it.”

William Daroff, the Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America said: “The Jewish Federations of North America applauds Congress for passing the Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 (H.R. 1730). The rise of anti-Semitism is an existential threat to the Jewish community and this trend is not abating. We are grateful to Representatives David Kustoff and Derek Kilmer for their bi-partisan leadership in sponsoring this legislation, which will help to deter the wave of threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and other religious institutions across the country, and to stand united against religious intolerance.”  

In 2017 alone, more than 160 bomb threats and other threats of violence have been made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across America. In addition to the fear and terror inflicted upon these religious institutions after a threat, there are tangible ramifications for the centers. Many places of worship are forced to temporarily close their doors as a result of these threats, and families who rely on the center’s services, such as school and early-childhood education programs, have been forced to choose between their safety and their faith community. 

This bipartisan legislation would amend the Church Arson Prevention Act (18 U.S.C. § 247) to ensure that individuals who make bomb threats and other credible threats of violence against community religious centers –based on the religious nature of that center will now carry a penalty of up to 3 years of imprisonment if any violations of the statute results in the damage or destruction to religious property.

The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017 has broad, bipartisan support and was originally co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA). The bill was cosponsored by an additional 40 bipartisan members. 

Click here for bill text.