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Anti-desecration Law Broadened to Include Damages to Educational and Residential Premises

Governor Mario Cuomo has signed into law an amendment to a 1982 New York State law which increased the penalty for acts of desecration against synagogues and churches to include damages to educational and residential premises.

Two bills for that purpose sponsored by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D. Manhattan) were approved last July by the Assembly and similar measures, introduced in the State Senate by Sen. Norman Levy (R-C, Nassau), were approved overwhelmingly in each house.

One of the measures amends the state penal law to expand the crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree to include damages to institutions maintained for religious instruction. The other measure requires insurance firms to report all claims in excess of $250 for casualty losses resulting from desecration, vandalism and theft of religious articles suffered by houses of worship to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

Silver said, when the measures received legislative approval, that the DCJS, after establishing a statewide central registry for such acts, will issue rules to detail the contents of such reports. Local law enforcement agencies, in addition, will be required to file similar reports with the DCJS so that leads can be developed on overall patterns of such acts in New York State.