House Passes Anti-vandalism Bill

A bill that would impose criminal penalties on anyone who damages religious property or injures persons in their free exercise of religious belief was adopted by the House by a voice vote last week. The bill, introduced by Rep. Dan Glickman (D. Kans.), sets penalties up to life imprisonment in cases where death results, and fines up to $500,000.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. But because of Reagan Administration opposition, there is little chance it will be adopted before Congress adjourns for the election campaigns, according to a spokesperson for the Senate.

The spokesperson said the Administration believes these crimes should be dealt with by state and local governments and not the federal government.

Glickman said the bill is aimed at deterring a small minority in this country “who see fit to vandalize and destroy religious property and in turn to jeopardize the freedoms of others to safely practice their religious beliefs.”

He said while the majority of these acts have been motivated by anti-Semitism, “this problem is by no means limited to the Jewish faith. The entire range of faiths, including Baptists, Catholics and Episcopal have been the targets of such attacks.” Glickman added that an effort must be made to “eliminate both the root of the problem and the symptoms.”

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