Local religious groups discuss safety measures, stopping hate after violent attacks

Local News

CENTERVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) – Local religious leaders say they’re saddened by violent attacks over the weekend against Jews in New York and Christians in Texas.

A man wielding a machete wounded five people at a rabbi’s home in New York Saturday. The following day, a gunman killed two people inside a Texas church.

The incidents are the latest in a series of attacks across the country and around the world on religious groups and houses of worship.

“An attack on anybody is an attack on everybody,” said Cathy Gardner, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton.

Gardner told 2 NEWS her organization’s facilities have several security measures in place, as do other congregations.

At Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sugarcreek Township, surveillance cameras keep watch, in addition to security guards in the hallways during services, according to Senior Pastor Darrell Messer. In addition, all doors except those at the main entrance are locked during services, he added.

“So that the people who are sitting in the pews are not looking over their shoulders every time someone walks through the door,” Messer said.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) sponsored a bill to increase funding to a program that provides grants to houses of worship to strengthen their security. The bipartisan bill would set aside $90 million for the program and passed in the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

The bill still needs the president’s signature to become law.

“These grants are available now and places of worship should reach out to see if they qualify,” Sen. Peters said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has proposed quadrupling the funding for the security grant program following the recent attacks.

Aside from security upgrades, faith-based communities need to work together to stop hate, Gardner said.

“You have to create relationships, you have to build relationships in all kinds of communities so that we’re all part of the same group of people and there isn’t an ‘other,'” Gardner said.

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