Nonprofit Security Grants Vital to Protecting America’s Religious Communities
Religious institutions in the United States are today facing an unprecedented level of violent attacks. In fact, an estimated 617 worshipers were killed in places of worship in the United States between 1999 and 2019. This includes:
This problem is not unique to marginalized communities: between 2000 and 2020, American churches saw 19 fatal shootings. As a result, 80 percent of Protestant pastors say their church has security measures in place.
The threat of violence is now a tragic feature of religious life in America, forcing many religious leaders to become ad hoc security planners. But security, and all that that entails, is an expensive and complex process that most places of worship simply cannot afford.
Fortunately, the federal government offers funds through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NPSG), which allows any at-risk nonprofit organization, including places of worship and other religious institutions, to seek financial support to protect themselves from harm. violence. For nearly two decades, financial assistance from federal, state and local governments has provided limited support for strengthening and improving the security of religious institutions in our country. Recently, Congress allocated $ 90 million for this program in fiscal year 2020 and $ 180 million in fiscal year 2021. The problem is that while the funds for the program have increased, the money available. did not follow the scale of the problem.
The threat to marginalized faith groups and community organizations is not disappearing. It took root in the American psyche. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center jointly assessed that domestic violent extremists and racially / ethnically motivated violent extremists will continue to pose a deadly threat. These threats are particularly difficult to detect as offenders are often radicalized online on an individual basis.
FBI data in recent years has corroborated what the Jewish community across the United States has said: Antisemitic incidents have increased. (The Jewish community has been the primary target of all religious hate crimes since official reporting began in 1994.) According to official statistics, hate crimes peaked in two decades in 2020, with over 1,000 incidents.
The NPSG program helps keep communities safe by providing grants to cover the costs of security needs. These grants ensure that America’s religious diversity continues to flourish and that all faiths can practice in peace and security. Unfortunately, current funding levels, although they have increased, still fail to meet the growing need for increased protection for groups across the country. Last year, the NSGP program was able to fund less than half of the grant applications it received, leaving many marginalized faith communities vulnerable.
Increased funding for the NPSG program will enable other marginalized groups to secure their communities. ADL is committed to sharing our in-depth knowledge and best practices to help other communities pursue this vital funding. When funding is insufficient, there is the risk of putting vulnerable communities and faith groups in competition with each other for critical security support, rather than uniting around common goals.
Fortunately, the latest Build Better budget includes additional funding of $ 100 million, which, on top of the $ 180 million allocated, brings us closer to the $ 360 million that we think is really needed to meet demand. But in an era of heightened vulnerability to hate-motivated violence by domestic extremists, Congress must support this funding for religious nonprofits and other nonprofits that we know are at high risk of attack. The consequences of not doing so could be fatal.
Max Sevillia is Vice President of Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).