tree of life synagogue

Pennsylvania Opens Grant Program For Faith Based Organizations Seeking Security Upgrades

Created in the wake of a shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, the grant program opened its application process last week.

Pennsylvania has introduced a new grant program allowing faith-based nonprofit organizations to receive funding for crucial security improvements.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency opened the program last week, which focuses on non-profits that principally serve people or institutions that are included within a “bias motivation category for a single bias hate crime incident” as identified by the FBI, according to MediaNews Group. Those categories can include race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity.

“Today marks another big step in reaffirming that regardless of faith or background, everyone deserves to feel safe in their place of worship,” state Sen. Andy Dinniman said in a statement. “I hope these grants will bring increased security, safety and peace of mind as we continue to stand strong against hate and violence and stand together in protecting the right to worship of all.”

The Non-Profit Security Grant Program was funded by the state legislature last year, with $5 million being dedicated to faith-based nonprofits. Eligible upgrades can include response training, vulnerability assessments, updates to facilities for security purposes and equipment including metal detectors, communications systems, trauma kits and more.

Organizations will be eligible for grants ranging from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $150,000. The commission will select nonprofits in coordination with the governor’s homeland security office and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Legislators pushed for the program following the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, which took the lives of 11 people and injured seven more. The man accused of carrying out the attack told police that he wanted “all Jews to die” when asked what his motives were.

The rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, as well as hate crimes against people of other faiths, has been a growing concern for federal law enforcement. Last fall, then-acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan appeared at the first meeting of a DHS subcommittee focused on violence against faith centers. He told the audience in Jackson, Mississippi that the agency was taking action against domestic terrorism against religious centers.

“I am concerned about the white supremacy and the extreme increases and the growing attacks, especially the ones we have seen on the houses of worship,” McAleenan said. “I absolutely agree it is a problem and we need to work to address it.”

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