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Bishops ask Congress for more funding for security at churches

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined an interfaith coalition calling on Congress to increase funding that provides grants to houses of worship to improve security.

The coalition’s call comes at a time of increased attacks on churches and other religious properties around the country. Two churches in El Cajon, St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral and Our Mother of Perpetual Help Syriac Catholic Church, were vandalized in September with swastikas and other phrases painted across their exteriors.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides funds to nonprofits and houses of worship to enhance security through improvements to infrastructure, funding for emergency planning and training, upgrading security systems, and some renovation projects.

While the program has been popular, lack of funding prompted many applicants for grants to be turned away in 2019. The coalition is calling on Congress to quadruple the total funding for the program to $360 million.

The USCCB’s ’ Committee for Religious Liberty joined the coalition in sending a letter to Congress asking for additional funds.

“Each of our communities believes that respect for human dignity requires respect for religious liberty. We believe that protecting the ability of all Americans to live out their faith without fear or harm is one of the most important duties of the federal government,” the letter said.

“We are grateful to Congress for establishing the grant program to better integrate nonprofit preparedness investments and activities within the broader whole community response to violent extremism. These security grants benefit people of all faiths. At a time of increasing extremism and antagonism towards different religious groups and religion in general, we believe significant increased funding for this important government program in fiscal year 2021 is imperative.”

Other groups joining the letter include the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, National Association of Evangelicals, U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventists, Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations, Agudath Israel of America, and The Episcopal Church.

 

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