Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Senate Passes Act Protecting Religiously Affiliated Community Centers

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed by unanimous consent S. 994: Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018 (full text). The bill expands the definition of "religious real property" in 18 USC Sec. 247 to include real property owned or leased by a nonprofit, religiously affiliated organization, such as religiously affiliated community centers.  It also expands the kind of damage, destruction or threats to religious real property that are prohibited to include obstructing a person's free exercise of religious beliefs by threats of force against religious real property. This is intended to cover bomb threats to religiously affiliated organizations such as the wave of bomb threats in 2017 directed at Jewish Community Centers.  The bill also increases punishment in certain cases.  The bill now goes to the House of Representatives which has already passed HR 1730 which is virtually identical to S. 994. AJC issued a press release applauding the Senate's action.