WASHINGTON (Jun. 29)
President Reagan has signed into law a bill that imposes federal criminal penalties for damage to religious property.
The bill, originally proposed by Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), imposes fines up to $250,000 and/or 10-years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of causing more than $10,000 in damage to a religious institution or cemetery, or causing serious bodily injury to anyone trying to exercise his or her religious beliefs.
“We’ve sent a clear message to organizations of hate that racist and racial religious violence will not be tolerated,” Glickman said after both houses of Congress approved the bill.
Still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee is another “hate crimes” bill, which would require the Justice Department to gather statistics and report annually on crimes against persons or property because of race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
That bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), was adopted by the House in May by a 383-29 vote.
Testifying in support of the legislation last week at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Alan Schwartz, director of research and evaluation for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said that keeping such statistics “would be a major step forward in accurately gauging the dimensions of the hate crimes problems.”
He added that it would also “promote public awareness of, and professional sensitivity toward, hate crimes and encourage victims and communities to feel that they can respond effectively to counter such activity.”
The ADL’s most recent study revealed that hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 1987 over 1986.