CHICAGO (CBS) — From Sri Lanka to California, the recent rash of violent attacks on worship sites is prompting reaction from local lawmakers and faith leaders, who are seeking up to $30 million in state tax money to secure religious sites.
After a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing one person and inuring three more, worshippers at a Rogers Park Orthodox temple feared just walking into services.
“In that short span of time where usually families are walking hand in hand, seemingly in peace, they were afraid to make that short journey to go to the synagogue,” said Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, of Beis Hamedrash Mikor Hachaim.
And though it’s a different faith, fear of attack also dampened Easter crowds at St. John Assyrian Church of the East in Ravenswood.
“We didn’t succeed at that,” said Rev. Antoine Latchen. “There was a decline you could see.”
Now a variety of faith leaders want the state to set aside up to $30 million to protect against hate.
“Places of worship should be sanctuaries, a place of peace, harmony and reflection,” said Habeeb Quadri of the Muslim Community Center.
Since 2016, the Islamic Council reports seven attacks on Chicago area Muslim sites. The Anti-Defamation League reports 13 incidents targeting Jewish sites. Both mostly involve property damage, but the state money would go to any nonprofit that may be at risk, not only religious groups.
“If it singled out religious organizations, religious not-for-profits, that would raise first amendment establishment clause concerns,” said Professor Sheldon Nahmod, of the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Indeed, supporters say religious sites aren’t the only targets.
“Some people have hatred toward other races, to immigrants, to people of different orientations,” said Shlomo Soroka, of Agudath Israel of Illinois. “Hate crosses all boundaries and other communities are at risk as well.”
The bill is sponsored by Skokie State Rep. Mark Kalish, who is also a rabbi. A spokesman for Gov. JB Pritzker said he’s reviewing the measure.