Congressman Joe Kennedy

Representing the 4th District of Massachusetts


Congressman Joe Kennedy working for Massachusetts constituents


Mar 27, 2017
Press Release
Bipartisan bill increases federal penalties for violent threats against religious centers & places of worship

Washington, D.C. – In response to a nationwide rise in threats to Jewish and other religious communities, Congressman Joe Kennedy III today joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017. Led by Congressman David Kustoff (R-TN) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA), the legislation would increase the federal penalty for bomb threats and other credible threats of violence against community religious centers and ensure these acts can be prosecuted as a hate crime.
“Targeted threats against the Jewish community or any other religious group will not shake our resolve for a nation free of bigotry and hatred,” said Kennedy. “With the support of colleagues from across the country, this legislation sends a clear message that anti-Semitism and religious intolerance have no place in this our United States."
In 2017 alone, more than 100 bomb threats and other threats of violence have been made against 81 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) in 33 states. In addition to the fear and terror inflicted upon these institutions after a threat, there are tangible ramifications for the centers. Many JCCs are forced to temporarily close their doors as a result of these threats, and families who rely on the center’s services, such as Hebrew school and early-childhood education programs, have been forced to choose between their safety and their faith community. 
“The rise in threats at religious community centers is deeply disturbing and makes it clear that existing federal laws do not suitably deter these acts of hate,” said Kustoff. “Religious tolerance is the bedrock on which our great nation was founded. We must defend the individual liberties of our neighbors of all faiths and protect places of worship, and I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that addresses the issue head on.”
“No American should be made a target because of his or her faith. Sadly, religious community centers across the country have increasingly had to lock down their facilities and call in bomb squads," said Kilmer. "I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill to ensure America remains a beacon of tolerance and respect for religion and free speech."
The Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 was also co-sponsored by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Click here for the bill text.

For Immediate Release:
March 27, 2017
Emily Kaufman (617) 332-3333
Dan Black (202) 225-5931

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