WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous vote an anti-hate crime bill (S. 994), protecting religiously affiliated institutions.
This legislation amends the federal criminal code and increases the penalty — a fine, a prison term of up to five years, or both— for intentionally threatening or destroying religious property.
Emgage Action, an organization that advocates for Muslims to become civically engaged and lobbied for the bill, welcomed the passing as it “strengthens protections to religious properties.”
“As a nation, we pride ourselves on our religious freedoms,” Emgage said in a statement. “When individuals intimidate and threaten our institutions, whether by desecrating cemeteries or vandalizing mosques, we must ensure that our laws protect communities of faith.”
The organizations said that Muslim Americans have experienced a higher increase of reported hate crimes from 2014 to 2016 compared to any other group, with an increase of almost 100 percent during that period.
The “Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act” was introduced by Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) in 2017.
A similar House bill passed 402-2 when it was introduced in March 2017.