As hate crimes rise, a statewide grants program is accepting applications from houses of worship that want to increase security.
Applications for the Protecting Religious Institutions Grants were made available to congregations of all faiths.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced the creation of the grant program as part of his proposed budget in January.
The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention expects to issue $3 million to religious institutions this year.
“The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention is dedicated to helping secure the safety of our communities in Maryland,” Glenn Fueston, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, said in a statement. “We are grateful that Governor Hogan recognizes the need to equip not only our law enforcement officers, but our community organizations, schools, and places of worship with the tools they need to protect Marylanders from harm, as they go about their daily lives.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
In Maryland, the most recent Uniform Crime Reporting data shows 48 hate crimes during 2017, with 12 of those motivated by religious bias. That same year, UCR data reported by the Department of Justice shows that of the more than 1,500 hate bias incidents reported nationally in 2017, more than 20 percent were motivated by religious bias.
During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that expanded the state’s definition of hate crimes to include a misdemeanor penalty for threats.
The grants can be spent on security enhancements including training, cameras, security personnel, improved lighting, and hardening of doorways and entries.
The grants are open to nonprofit, faith-based entities with appropriate tax status, and applications will be considered and awarded on a rolling basis while funds are available.
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