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Bill Introduced in the House Would Make It a Federal Offense to Deface, Damage or Destroy Religious

A bill that would make it a federal offense to deface, damage or destroy any religious property has been introduced in the House by Rep. Dan Glickman (D. Kan.). Twenty-two other representatives of both parties have joined him in sponsoring the legislation.

“In a nation that protects religious freedom as fiercely as the United States, it is reprehensible that vicious actions against articles and places of worship take place,” Glickman said. “Many are anti-Semitic in nature and directed against synagogues but almost all religious institutions have also been victims of hate crimes.”

Chuck Timanus, Glickman’s press secretary, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Glickman had been considering such a bill for some time but that on the weekend before he planned to introduce the bill, he was angered by reports that three churches used by Black congregations in South Carolina had been burned and a synagogue in Gaithersburg, Md. had been desecrated.

Timanus noted that during the 1960’s, when Black churchs were being bombed in the south the FBI would only enter the case on the grounds of civil rights violations.

The Glickman bill provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison and/or fines of $15,000 for anyone convicted of wilfully vandalizing, defacing, burning or otherwise destroying or damaging any cemetery, building or other property used for religious purposes, or any religious articles within the property. Should a death occur from such actions, the bill provides for life imprisonment.

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