Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act (H.R. 1730). This bipartisan bill, introduced by Congressman David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), protects religious institutions and centers from threats and acts of violence.

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 damaging or destroying religious property by fire or explosives.

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

Chairman Goodlatte: “Freedom of religion is a core American value and is to be protected. All Americans have a constitutional right to practice their religious beliefs openly and without fear of persecution. 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 contains news 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 work on this bipartisan bill and urge the House to vote on it soon.”

Representative Kustoff: “Religious tolerance is the bedrock on which our great nation was founded. We must stand united against acts of hate and protect the rights of all Americans to worship freely and without fear. This bipartisan bill strengthens federal criminal statutes to prevent threats made against any religious institution, while preserving our First Amendment rights. I am proud that this important legislation was voted favorably out of the Judiciary Committee and look forward to its consideration in the full House.”