Van Hollen, religious leaders call for increase in security grants for places of worship – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — US Senator Chris Van Hollen and religious leaders on Friday called for doubling federal funding to provide safety grants to places of worship and nonprofits, saying the federal government’s allocation is not meeting demand.

Noting that there have been recent bomb threats at several historically black colleges and universities in the state, Van Hollen said the grants provide additional security for nonprofits and places of worship that are likely targets.

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Speaking outside the Kemp Mill synagogue in Silver Spring, Van Hollen pointed out fences and barriers that had been installed.

“It is a sad sign of the times that we need to protect places of worship, but it is a reality of the times,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security was established in 2016 The grant program started with $20 million. Between 2020 and 2021, funding doubled from $90 million to $180 million, but Van Hollen said the number of inquiries is close to $400 million.

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Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, an advocacy group representing more than 1,000 synagogues, said the grants are essential given the violent attacks on churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.

“MYour organization and others are really urging Congress to provide what is needed for the Jewish community and faith communities during these critical times,” he said.

Earlier this year, a 44-year-old British citizen took four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, the latest in a string of violent attacks on places of worship. That rabbi there, Charlie Cytron-Walker, said the scholarship program allowed his congregation to install additional cameras in the synagogue and members to attend training seminars with law enforcement.

Montgomery County executive Marc Elrich said the local government is committed to making people feel safe at places of worship and nonprofits “that are controversial.”

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“One day maybe we’ll go back to the point where we can walk together and not have to worry about what might happen,” he said. “But until that day, we have a duty to make sure we do everything we can.” Van Hollen, religious leaders call for increase in security grants for places of worship – CBS Baltimore

Jake Nichol

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