Washington, D.C. — The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 402-2 the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017 (H.R. 1730). The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act, introduced by Congressman David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) and approved by the House Judiciary Committee last month, protects religious institutions and centers from threats and acts of violence.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) applauded today’s House approval of the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act in the statement below.

Chairman Goodlatte: “Freedom in the exercise of religion is a fundamental right that our founding fathers chose to place as the first recognized right in our Bill of Rights. It is as important to protect these rights today.  Sadly, we have witnessed many threats and acts of violence against religious institutions and centers and we must ensure our laws appropriately punish those seeking to intimidate people of faith.

The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act strengthens prosecutorial tools to deter acts of hate and violence toward religious institutions so that freedom of religion continues to flourish in America. I thank Congressman Kustoff for his hard work on this bipartisan bill and applaud the House for quickly passing it.”

Background: According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States skyrocketed by 86 percent in the first three months of this year, including vandalism incidents, cemetery desecrations, and numerous bomb threats against community centers. The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act amends current law to ensure that individuals who make bomb threats and other credible threats of violence against religious institutions, regardless of their religion, can be prosecuted for obstructing people from practicing their right to exercise their religious beliefs.  Additionally, the legislation creates a penalty of up to three years imprisonment for conduct that causes damage or destruction of religious property exceeding $5,000.