- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2020

President Trump has signed little-noticed legislation to fund greater protection of religious institutions against terror attacks.

Mr. Trump signed the bipartisan legislation Friday amid the impeachment trial in the Senate, after several attacks on religious institutions in recent weeks.

The measure authorizes an annual appropriation of $75 million through fiscal 2024 for a nonprofit security grant program under the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

President Trump touted the legislation during the signing ceremony at the White House and said the atmosphere surrounding the religious groups was “crazy.”

“We must work together to reject the monstrous evils of antisemitism and anti-religious bigotry,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “We are committed to building a nation where every community is secure, every family is safe, and every child can grow up in dignity and in peace.”

Congress late last month voted to raise existing security grants’ funding from $60 million to $90 million. The legislation signed Friday increases the funding and provides that the corresponding grants may be used for physical security equipment and screening systems, physical security and cybersecurity training, and other things such as cybersecurity resilience activities.

Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America who attended the signing ceremony, said he was thankful for the government’s action. He added, however, that he thought more funding was needed for the nonprofit security grant program (NSGP).

“Today only 32% of all nonprofits who apply for the NSGP receive them,” Mr. Fingerhut said in a statement. “And, while we are grateful that the amount available was increased, more funds are needed to secure Jewish and other faith-based groups affected by increasing threats.”

The legislation comes after several attacks on religious institutions in recent weeks. In New York, an attacker stabbed five people attending Hanukkah festivities at a rabbi’s home in December, not long after New York City police reportedly stepped up their police presence in Jewish neighborhoods following accounts of antisemitic incidents. In December, near Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman killed two people inside a church before another churchgoer shot him dead.

The legislation’s lead sponsor in the House was Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, alongside Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, and more than 100 of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle. Companion legislation in the Senate was pushed by Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, and co-sponsor Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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