WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that a bipartisan bill she cosponsored to protect religious institutions passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017, led by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), will strengthen protections for religious entities and their properties in the face of increasing persecution.

The bill clarifies that federal law prohibits threats toward religious institutions, modestly increases the criminal penalty for cases in which the underlying conduct causes significant damage or destruction, and clarifies that “religious real property” includes property that is leased by religious institutions.

“There has been a rise in threats of violence across the nation, and unfortunately Minnesota has been affected by this disturbing trend,” Klobuchar said. “Places of worship should be sanctuaries where families feel safe from violence and discrimination. This bill will help protect the institutions we hold sacred and the people who wish to practice in them.”

Last August, the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington was the target of a bombing. Earlier in 2017, bomb threats were made against the St. Paul Jewish Community Center and the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park.