Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to Consider Bill Establishing Clearinghouse on Safety and Security for Synagogues, Day Schools, Other Faith-Based Organizations
[Update: The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Pray Safe Act July 14; it will next be considered by the full Senate]
Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, urged the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to approve the Pray Safe Act (S. 2123) at a committee markup session tomorrow. The bipartisan legislation would establish a federal clearinghouse on safety and security to govern best practices for faith-based organizations.
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, the OU’s public policy arm, today submitted a letter in support of this legislation to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noting the act “will provide useful tools to enhance the security of the American Jewish community and other faith communities.” The committee is scheduled to review the Pray Safe Act Wednesday.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) crafted and introduced the legislation in the Senate in June with input from the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center. The Pray Safe Act would direct the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Department of Justice, the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and other agencies to create the clearinghouse, which would provide at risk houses of worship and other faith based organizations with the most up to date safety and security recommendations, as well as information on federal resources and relevant grant programs.
Said Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament:
“It is tragic that in the United States today that synagogues, churches, temples and other houses of worship can’t be assumed to be sanctuaries from violence and have been the sites of faith-targeted violence. Freedom to worship cannot be enjoyed without freedom from fear. Thus, the Orthodox Jewish community is grateful to Senators Rob Portman and Maggie Hassan for their introduction of the Pray Safe Act. This legislation, when enacted and implemented, will support the greater security and safety of our community’s synagogues and other community’s houses of worship. It is sad that we need this kind of legislation – but we do – and we call upon Congress to pass it right away.”
Said Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane:
“It is deeply disturbing that we are living at a time now in which we are witnessing the worst anti-Semitic violence and incidents ever carried out in the United States. These attacks are taking place in broad daylight on our city streets; in the past two weeks alone, a rabbi in Boston was stabbed in front of a Jewish day school and synagogue; a crowd burned an Israeli flag in Brooklyn while chanting for Israel’s destruction; and more than a dozen headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Baltimore were desecrated with swastikas. We need the federal government – and state and local governments – to respond forcefully. The Pray Safe Act is one important legislative remedy to help address the current crisis.”