U.S. President Donald Trump enacted a law that expands hate crime protections to religious institutions.
The bill signed last Friday by Trump, the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act, was prompted in part by a series of bomb threats last year against Jewish institutions.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Wednesday praised the passage of the law, which had strong bipartisan backing. “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,” said Jason Isaacson, the AJC associate executive director for policy.
Hate crimes laws enable prosecutors and law enforcement to impose enhanced penalties for existing crimes if they can show that bias was a motive.
Joseph Schocken, a businessman in Mercer Island, Washington, contacted his congressman, Derek Wilmer, after a local Jewish community centre got a threat.
Wilmer, a Democrat, joined David Kustoff, a Jewish Republican from Tennessee, to advance the bill, and it was also advanced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and Dianne Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat from California.
In June, Michael Kadar, a 19-year-old American-Israeli man, was convicted by an Israeli court of making hundreds of bomb threats to Jewish community centres and Jewish schools in the United States, as well as to airlines.