WASHINGTON (JTA) – President Obama signed into law a measure that makes the desecration of cemeteries around the world a violation of religious freedom.
Obama signed the The Protect Cemeteries Act amending the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 on Friday.
The 1998 act was amended to include the vandalizing of cemeteries. Under the proposed change, the United States could penalize countries that obstruct religious freedom by cutting foreign aid, imposing trade sanctions, and canceling cultural and scientific exchanges.
“This new law makes it clear that that our society will not tolerate the desecration of cemeteries whether motivated by anti-Semitism, hate or greedy and uncaring developers,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, said in a statement Tuesday. “It will be a new and critical tool to combat the desecration of cemeteries, and provide a much needed boost towards promoting preservation, tolerance and respect for cemeteries across the globe.”
The Senate approved the bill in July — Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) helped lead the effort in the Foreign Relations Committee — following approval by the House in May.
In 2013, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Hungary, Russia, Poland, France, Germany, Georgia, Moldova and Argentina, according to Cardin’s office.