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.