President Trump has signed “The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of
2018” into law. The new law strengthens protections for religious entities and their properties.
The bipartisan bill, which builds on the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, clarifies
that federal law prohibits threats toward religious institutions such as schools and community
centers, in addition to houses of worship, as well as acts that result in damage to or destruction of
religious institutions’ property.
The new law also modestly increases the criminal penalty for cases in which the
underlying conduct causes significant damage or destruction, and clarifies that “religious real
property” includes property that is leased by religious institutions.
The legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April and unanimously passed
the Senate and the House in September.
The bill was endorsed by various religious groups, including Agudath Israel of America
and the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Both groups wrote letters of support that Senator
Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the bill’s sponsor, requested be placed in the Congressional Record.
After President Trump signed the bill into law, Senator Hatch said, “Crimes targeting
religious institutions pose a danger to the religious freedom and security of all Americans. I am
proud to sponsor this bill that will protect houses of worship and affiliate community centers.
These attacks are inexcusable. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate,
as well as the President, for working swiftly to sign our legislation into law.”
In a statement issued after the bill became law, Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s associate
executive director for policy, said, “This important law, which provides for new and
strengthened measures to deter, as well as punish, perpetrators of attacks on religious institutions,
will provide a much-needed sense of comfort and security.
“The solid bipartisan support for the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of
2018 is a reaffirmation of our freedom, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, to exercise religion, to
practice one’s faith unhindered and without fear,” Mr. Isaacson added. “The increasing attacks
and threats against churches, synagogues, and mosques disgrace our nation’s most fundamental
values, and demand the firm response offered by the new law.”