US Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that he was “sickened and appalled” that anti-Semitic graffiti was spray painted on the property of a synagogue in his home state of Indiana.
A black swastika surrounded by a red background and the German and Nazi Military Iron Cross were painted on a wall at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a 200-member family Conservative synagogue in Carmel, near Indianapolis.
The graffiti was painted on the synagogue early on Saturday morning. Shabbat morning services were held despite the discovery, the synagogue said in a post on Facebook.
Writing on Twitter, Pence called the graffiti “a cowardly act of vandalism” and said that “those responsible must be held accountable.”
Sickened and appalled by the cowardly act of vandalism at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla; a beautiful synagogue in Carmel, Indiana where I have many good friends. Those responsible must be held accountable. These vile acts of anti-Semitism must end. https://t.co/0h6rKPilda
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 29, 2018
Since the incident, axtra security has been put in place at Indianapolis-area synagogues, the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council told local media.
Debra Barton Grant, CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, posted pictures of the vandalized shed on her personal Facebook page.
I’m disgusted and furious tonight that this has happened and that my beautiful State of Indiana is one of only five…
Barton Grant noted that Indiana remains one of just five states without a hate crimes law.
Republican Senate leaders announced in January they were killing a bill that targeted crimes motivated by bias.
A recent poll conducted by Ball State University found that 65 percent of Indiana residents support the creation of a hate crimes law. But a deep thread of social conservatism runs throughout the Statehouse, and lawmakers faced pressure from activists who argue that a hate crimes law would create a special protected class of victims.
A provision that would have protected transgender people was a particular sticking point.
The bill by Republican Sen. Susan Glick would have specifically stated in law that a judge could take into account whether a crime was motivated by race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
It also would have required such crimes to be reported to the FBI. Currently, Indiana law enforcement agencies are not required to do so.
Anecdotal accounts suggest instances of bias crimes are on the rise in Indiana, and the Southern Poverty Law Center reports 26 active hate groups in the state.
AP and JTA contributed to this report.