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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

Senate Pray Safe Act would provide faith-based organizations with safety info, federal grants

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The Pray Safe Act, introduced to the U.S. Senate last week, represents a joint effort on the part of U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to provide faith-based organizations and houses of worship with easy access to security best practices, federal grant programs, and training.

Cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the legislation would direct the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), working with the Department of Justice, the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and others as deemed appropriate, to create and codify a federal clearinghouse on safety and security best practices for both faith-based organizations and houses of worship.

That clearinghouse would be responsible for providing these organizations with safety and security recommendations, as well as providing information on federal resources and grant programs available to that end.

“We must ensure that faith-based organizations and houses of worship have the resources, assistance, and training they need to secure their facilities in the face of unnecessary violence that has tragically become increasingly common,” Portman said. “The threats and senseless attacks on faith-based organizations and houses of worship we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values, and this bipartisan legislation will give our faith-based institutions in Ohio and across our country the resources and information they need to protect themselves.”

Such a bill can help Americans of all faiths to gather in peace, without fear of attack, Hassan added.

“Americans should be able to feel a sense of safety and security in their places of worship, yet we have seen heartbreaking attacks targeting communities based on their faiths,” Hassan said.

The bill has gained support from several religious organizations and anti-hate groups, such as The Anti-Defamation League, The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

“The Pray Safe bill would create a centralized hub for faith-based institutions facing security threats,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of The Anti-Defamation League, said. “At a time when Jews have been experiencing increased antisemitic incidents, we welcome bipartisan efforts like that of Senators Portman and Hassan to improve access to life-saving services across faith-based communities.”

The past few years have seen a notable rise in targeted attacks on synagogues, mosques, temples, and churches alike in the United States. From murders in Pittsburgh to church burnings, violence has struck in numerous forms, along with other hate crimes across the nation.

“The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati has been a target for threats and security breach by bad actors,” Dr. Amir Izhar, board chair of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, said. “It is for this reason and many more we are very positive on the Pray Safe Act as a great example of the power of bipartisan legislation to keep diverse faith communities safe. It is necessary to make a much-needed difference on the ground for everyday Americans exercising the constitutional right to worship free from the threat of violence.”