August 28, 2019

Senator Hassan Leads Discussion on Strengthening Protections for Places of Worship

MANCHESTER – In case you missed it, Senator Maggie Hassan led a discussion yesterday with faith leaders and public safety officials about efforts to bolster protections against foreign and domestic terrorist threats at places of worship. The discussion follows a rise in threats against religious institutions in New Hampshire and across the country.

Senator Hassan and her colleagues in New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation recently announced that the state will receive a $4 million federal grant for general terrorism prevention efforts. The delegation also announced a separate grant of $150,000 to seven New Hampshire houses of worship to strengthen building security. As a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Hassan is a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that recently passed through the committee to increase funding for the non-profit security grant program to help support security upgrades at houses of worship, and to also permanently authorize this grant program in law.

Additionally, in May, Senator Hassan and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expressing concern over the rise in domestic terrorism and requesting information about what steps DHS has taken to mitigate and prevent these threats.

See below for coverage highlights:

AP: Hassan leads talk on keeping houses of worship safe

By Holly Ramer

New Hampshire’s faith leaders said Tuesday they are working with law enforcement to keep their congregations safe but need more resources as they try to strike a delicate balance between openness and security.

Leaders of Islamic, Christian and Jewish faith communities joined law enforcement Tuesday for a discussion led by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. They described hiring security guards and locking their doors in the wake of deadly shootings at houses of worship in other states and overseas, and wrestling with difficult conversations about bringing guns into houses of worship.

[…] “We need to make sure that everybody in New Hampshire and all Americans can feel safe when they go to their place of worship,” [Hassan] said. “In New Hampshire, we come together, we ask questions of each other, we get to know each other, we roll up our sleeves and solve problems together.”

WMUR: Religious leaders, officials meet on protecting places of worship

A new effort from state and federal officials is being made to protect houses of worship and religious congregations in New Hampshire against hate violence.

Several religious institutions have become the object of hatred and, sometimes, violence. In response, New Hampshire civic and religious leaders gathered Tuesday at a Manchester synagogue to talk about safety and understanding.

[…] U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan has worked to get $4 million in federal funds for the state Department of Homeland Security and $150,000 to help secure local churches, mosques and synagogues, but most members of the panel said there is still fear in the congregations and more needs to be done.

"It's terrible, painful to hear that people in New Hampshire or anywhere else in America are worried about their safety when they're going to worship," Hassan said. "Houses of worship are where we should feel our safest."

[…] Many religious leaders spoke of installing surveillance systems and bulletproof glass, or even posting armed guards during services in response to perceived threats. Hassan said she hopes the money can help those efforts, while religious leaders said they hope to tear down barriers through understanding.

The Union Leader: Domestic terrorist threats elsewhere ripple into NH

By Kevin Landrigan

Domestic terrorist attacks against houses of worship from Pittsburgh to San Francisco have caused ripples of hate aimed at New Hampshire synagogues, mosques and churches, clergy told Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., during a panel discussion Tuesday.

Temple Beth Jacob Rabbi Robin Nafshi said that 18 days after 11 worshipers were gunned down at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018, she began receiving emails from Brian Roberts of Concord who later was charged with threatening Gov. Chris Sununu and the State House.

[…] Tuesday’s meeting provided those gathered the opportunity to discuss two federal grants that have gone to New Hampshire to help fight terrorist threats made against religious organizations.

The first $4 million grant goes to the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the statewide response. The second grant of $150,000 goes to seven individual houses of worship, constituting the first time New Hampshire faith groups have received dollars directly.

“In the past these grants have only been directed to large urban centers,” Hassan said. “We have been advocating to make sure houses of worship across the country got access to these grants. We know there is more work to do to make sure additional houses of worship are protected.”

[…] Hassan said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and she have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to articulate its strategy for battling domestic terrorism. She said further federal legislation on this front remains a possibility.

“This is a subject of ongoing discussion in Congress right now about the tools law enforcement needs,” Hassan said.

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