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H.R. 1730 (115th): Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017

H.R. 1730 would clarify and strengthen the coverage of current laws against damaging religious property. Specifically, the bill amends the Church Arson Prevention Act to clarify that the conduct covered under this statute includes bomb threats to religious institutions, whether they be synagogues, mosques, churches, or religious community centers. This legislation also adds language to clarify that threats covered under subsection (a)(2) of the Act include threats to property, so long as the threat causes such intimidation to intentionally obstruct the individual’s ability to exercise their right to practice their religion. Further, the legislation increases the criminal penalty where the underlying act causes damage or destruction of property, but only where such damage is caused by fire or explosives. Finally, the bill clarifies that “real religious property” includes property that is leased by religious institutions, to ensure property such as religious community centers are covered.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States has increased by 86% in the first three months of 2017. These incidents include vandalism, cemetery desecrations, and bomb threats against community centers. This legislation amends current law to ensure individuals who make violent threats against religious institutions can be prosecuted for obstructing people from practicing their right to exercise their religious beliefs.

Last updated Dec 13, 2017. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 27, 2017.


Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017

This bill amends the federal criminal code to modify prohibitions with respect to intentionally defacing, damaging, or destroying religious real property.

Specifically, the bill broadens the scope of prohibited conduct to also criminalize threats to deface, damage, or destroy religious real property.

Additionally, it establishes a criminal penalty—a fine, a prison term of up to five years, or both—for a violation that results in damage or destruction to religious property.

Finally, the bill broadens the definition of "religious real property" to include real property owned or leased by a nonprofit, religiously affiliated organization.