Federal grant fund for security at houses of worship boosted by $400 million

shutterstock 596958530 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. | Credit: Albert H. Teich/Shutterstock

A federal grant program that provides security funding for houses of worship and other nonprofits will receive $400 million more than it had the previous year amid rising threats, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“The fear, the trauma, when synagogues and other houses of worship have to be evacuated … stays with the congregants and people who go the next day wonder, ‘Is it going to happen again? Am I safe?’” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a Sunday news conference announcing the increased funding.

“So this is vicious, aimed of course at synagogues above all, but also at mosques and churches and temples, and it has to stop,” he added. 

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program was created in 2004. Although all nonprofit organizations are eligible for funding, nearly all of the money is allocated to religious institutions.

The program received $305 million in federal funding last year, but with the $400 million addition it will receive more than $700 million in 2024.

The money can be used to set up security cameras, build fences, strengthen windows, and hire security guards, among other things. 

The deadline to apply is May 21.

“You don’t have to have been threatened [to apply for funding],” Schumer said on Sunday. “Just the fact that so many people who go to a house of worship are worried that that house of worship may be a target is enough.”

Schumer said applicants should receive funding “within a period of months” after they apply, with the senator noting that the money is already available for distribution. 

He also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will assist small houses of worship with filling out the grant applications if they require assistance.

Schumer cited numbers from the Anti-Defamation League, which says there was a significant rise in antisemitic incidents in 2023, jumping to more than 8,800 from about 3,700 in 2022.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, meanwhile, says anti-Muslim incidents have been on the rise, citing more than 8,000 incidents in 2023, which it said constituted “a 56% jump over the previous year.”

In both cases, the organizations attribute the rise to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Catholic churches have also experienced security concerns ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, allowing states and the federal government to restrict abortion. 

Dozens of Catholic churches have been subject to vandalism, which has included the beheading of statues and satanic graffiti, among other attacks.

In December, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged lawmakers to include more funding for security for houses of worship. 

The USCCB says there have been more than 300 acts of destruction at Catholic churches since May 2020.

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According to the USCCB’s annual religious liberty report published in January of this year, the top threat to religious liberty in the U.S. includes “attacks against houses of worship, especially in relation to the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

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