In a letter sent to Congress, U.S. bishops, together with other faith leaders, asked for increased funding to enhance security in houses of worship.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty has joined an interfaith coalition calling on congressional leaders to increase the budget for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). The grant program is given to nonprofits and houses of worship to make security improvements, including training, emergency planning, upgrading security systems, and some renovation projects.
Each of our communities believes that respect for human dignity requires respect for religious liberty. —USCCB Interfaith Letter on Nonprofit Security Grants
The coalition asks Congress to quadruple the NSGP funding in 2021 to $360 million following a series of incidents of vandalism. Data from the FBI revealed that at least 1,244 hate crimes were committed in 2018 against various religious groups including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh.
In the letter, the faith leaders wrote: “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.”
According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, the budget hike was requested since only one-third of applications in 2019 were funded.
“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,” the letter stated.
A wave of church attacks was reported across the country, including the mass shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and California in 2018 and 2019 and it has unsettled the different religious communities in the country. Just recently, in September, religious statues were destroyed at churches in Utah, New York and Texas, reports Angelus News.
“Our sacred spaces have been desecrated, and our faithful murdered,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said.
The letter stressed the importance of strengthening security in churches and other houses of worship so people are assured of their safety when practicing their faith.