WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1), Jacky Rosen (NV-3) and John Katko (NY-24) introduced bipartisan legislation today to increase penalties for making bomb threats and provide $20 million in additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security to safeguard faith-based community centers.

The bill, which already has the support of 28 other members, would provide $20 million in additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security under the existing State Homeland Security Grant Program specifically dedicated to safeguarding faith-based community centers. Additionally, it would double the federal penalty against making bomb threats from five years to ten years.

“Threats against faith-based community centers and the recent wave of anti-Semitism absolutely cannot be tolerated as a new normal,” Rep. Mast said. “The people perpetrating these threats are evil, plain and simple. Our bipartisan bill takes the firm stance of defending human dignity, protecting religious liberty and condemning these threats of violence and bigotry in no uncertain terms. I also want to thank Senator Martin Heinrich for his leadership on this issue in the Senate. Working together, we can restore public confidence in the safety of Jewish Community Centers across the country.”

“These cowardly threats against Jewish community centers, no matter the identity of the perpetrator, have no place in our society,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “It angers me that so many people are emboldened by the current political climate to target people of any faith with hate speech and threats of violence based on their own prejudices and ignorance. America should always be inclusive and welcoming of all people, and I will do everything possible to fight against hateful rhetoric and actions that don’t represent our values.”

“Over the last several months, I have been shocked and alarmed by the escalation of the anti-Semitic hate crimes that have been sweeping our country, including in southern Nevada,” Rep. Rosen said. “Our local Jewish Community Center received a bomb threat and etchings of swastikas were found at a Mexican consulate and onto a marble column of a Las Vegas synagogue just 30 minutes from my home. These threats are real, and they cannot be and will not be ignored. That’s why I’m proud to be a co-lead on the Faith-Based Community Center Protection bill. This legislation would provide extra funds to address the anti-Semitism and hate crimes that are being felt at the heart of each local community across our country. These actions go against everything we stand for as Americans, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in Congress on putting a stop to hate.”

“With recurrent threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country and right here in Central New York, it is vital that we act to stop and prevent these unacceptable criminal acts. This bill is critical to that effort,” Rep. Katko said. “By doubling the federal penalty for a person convicted of a bomb threat and authorizing grants to safeguard faith-based community centers, we can help to restore safety and security to our communities. I’m proud to work with a bipartisan group in Congress to advance this measure forward, and I thank Rep. Lujan Grisham for her leadership in this effort.”

Similar legislation was introduced in the US. Senate by Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM) and Sen. Dean Heller (NV).

“Jewish Community Centers and other faith-based community centers provide a safe and welcoming environment where families and children learn, play sports, share holidays, and gather in peace. No American should be forced to feel unsafe at these centers,” Sen. Heinrich said. “Anti-Semitism, or any faith-based targeting, is unacceptable. Federal, state, and local officials must act swiftly to help protect these sites and to ensure that these cowardly acts are not tolerated and are punished to the fullest extent possible.”