Bill to Provide Stiff Penalties Against Acts of Desecration

Gov. Brendan Byrne signed into law at a synagogue here a bill providing for stiff penalities aginst acts of bigotry such as the desecrations and anti-Semitic daubings the synagogue has suffered.

The law, signed in Congregation B’nai Yeshurun, last Thursday, sets penalities of up to five years in jail and fines of up to $7,500. Specifically, the bill is aimed at persons seeking to incite fear by

burning crosses, painting swastikas or defacing buildings or property with threatening slogans or symbols.

The Governor said, in signing the measure, that it would “serve as a representation of the sentiment of New Jersey residents against that kind of bigotry and attempts at terrorism.”

Edward Weiss, chairman of the New Jersey regional advisory board of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said the ADL had been in the forefront of a two-year effort to get the bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature. Weiss called the measure a “get tough” law.

Jeffrey Maas, New Jersey regional ADL director, said that “unfortunately the rate of these incidents is rising, We have had twice as many cases reported this year as we did during the same period in 1980.”

Assemblyman Byron Baer, Englewood Democrat, chief sponsor of the law, said that, before its passage, such incidents as swastika daubings were “handled as property damage. It was a petty disorderly person’s offense, like smoking on a bus or putting a slug in a pay telephone.” He noted that to obtain the maximum penalty, prosecutors will have to show that the accused person intended to cause “fear of unlawful bodily violence.”

Among the organizations that supported the bill sponsored by Baer and State Sen. Matthew Feldman, Teaneck Democrat, were the New Jersey Council of Churches, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the ADL, the American Jewish Congress and the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

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