Lawmakers consider grant program to protect religious groups from terrorism

In light of the growing number of threats to religious groups, Minnesota lawmakers are now considering a special grant program to guard against terrorism.

The move comes after both the St. Louis Park and St. Paul Jewish community centers received bomb threats earlier this year. Nothing was found in either of the incidents.

Currently, the United States Department of Homeland Security offers competitive grants for nonprofit organizations to increase their security if they’re at a high risk of a terrorist attack. But, most Minnesota groups would likely lose out to organizations in larger cities.

Therefore, lawmakers want a similar program in Minnesota that would award $75,000 grants. The Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park told lawmakers it would use such a grant to improve its security.

“Really we’re looking to improve our technology and infrastructure, continue to add training for our faculty and staff so that we can continue to stay ahead of the threat environment that we’re in,” Lon White of the Sabes Jewish Community Center, said. “And it’s continuing to evolve and it’s continuing to challenge us and we want to make sure we’re ready for those kind of situations.” 

At a Capitol hearing on Tuesday, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Drew Christiansen, says the grant program would be open to any organization that could be the target of a terrorism threat.