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March 15, 2017

Thompson: Hearing, Legislation Needed to Protect Religious Institutions from Domestic Terrorism

(WASHINGTON) – Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter today to committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) to request a comprehensive oversight hearing on the ongoing domestic terrorism threat to our nation’s religious institutions – including Jewish Community Centers – and to request a markup to pass the Securing American Non-Profit Organizations Against Terrorism Act (H.R. 1486).  This bill, introduced by Ranking Member Thompson, would authorize $30 million in grants for non-profits that the Department of Homeland Security deems to be at risk of a terrorist attack to improve their security. 

In just the first three months of 2017, there has been a spate of threats in 32 states against 71 of the nation’s 151 Jewish Community Centers, five Anti-Defamation League locations, and several Jewish day schools.  In recent years, attacks and threats to religious institutions of all faiths have increased dramatically.  This increase is occurring as the Southern Poverty Law Center has announced the number of active hate groups in the United States last year rose to 917 – including 514 anti-Semitic groups, 547 White Nationalist groups, and 605 anti-Muslim groups.

In the letter, Ranking Member Thompson states:

Last Congress, in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine victims were killed while exercising their religious freedoms, I wrote to you requesting a hearing on the threat of domestic terrorism. Unfortunately, your response and the Committee’s oversight activities showed a lack of willingness to address all forms of violent extremists, especially from terrorist groups founded on racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim principals who have all targeted our Nation’s religious facilities.

The threat posed by violent extremism is not limited to a single ideology and that groups and individuals inspired by a wide range of religious, political, or other ideological beliefs have promoted and used violence against the United States. There are no easy solutions to this security challenge, as the paths to terrorism are as diverse as the perpetrators.  Nonetheless, our committee has a moral obligation and a Congressional responsibility to ask the tough questions and move forward legislation in an effort to protect our Nation from terrorism – no matter the source.  I look forward to our upcoming hearing and to working with you to address the growing threats to our religious facilities.

Link to letter (with list of recent attacks and threats)

Link to H.R. 1486 text & information

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Media contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978