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Trump signs law expanding hate crime protections to religious institutions

American Jewish Committee praises legislation, partly enacted in response to spate of JCC bomb threats

Illustrative photo of police tape at the JCC in Nashville, Tennessee, after the community center received a bomb threat on January 9, 2017. (Screenshot: The Tennessean)
Illustrative photo of police tape at the JCC in Nashville, Tennessee, after the community center received a bomb threat on January 9, 2017. (Screenshot: The Tennessean)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump enacted a law that expands hate crime protections to religious institutions.

The bill signed last Friday by Trump, Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act, was prompted in part by a series of bomb threats last year against Jewish institutions.

The American Jewish Committee on Wednesday praised the passage of the law, which had strong bipartisan backing. “This important law, which provides for new and strengthened measures to deter, as well as punish, perpetrators of attacks on religious institutions, will provide a much-needed sense of comfort and security,” said Jason Isaacson, the AJC associate executive director for policy.

Hate crimes laws enable prosecutors and law enforcement to impose enhanced penalties for existing crimes if they can show that bias was a motive.

Joseph Schocken, a businessman in Mercer Island, Washington, contacted his congressman, Derek Wilmer, after a local Jewish community center got a threat.

Wilmer, a Democrat, joined David Kustoff, a Jewish Republican from Tennessee, to advance the bill, and was also advanced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and Dianne Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat from California.

In June, a 19-year-old American-Israeli man, was convicted by an Israeli court of making hundreds of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools in the United States, as well as to airlines. His name is barred from publication in Israel as the crimes were committed when he was a minor.

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