U.S. strengthens hate crimes laws to protect churches and religious institutions

church damage

U.S. President Donald Trump this month signed a bill into law increasing punishments for criminals who target churches or religiously affiliated organizations. The bill was introduced in response to a growing number of vandalism, bomb threats and other attacks on religious freedom in the U.S.

Existing U.S. law protects abortion clinics and other facilities frequently target by vandals.  The new law expands similar protections for churches. According to a news release from the White House, The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018 criminalizes the intentional obstruction of any person’s free exercise of religious beliefs by threat of force against religious real property. It increases the penalty to three years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine for threats that lead to damage. Those offenses were misdemeanors with a maximum one year in jail before the bill was signed.

 

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