One month after deadly synagogue shooting, local senators push to protect worship centers
BERLIN, Md. – “A place of worship should be a place of safety and security and a place where you feel at peace,” said Rabbi Estelle Mills of the Temple Bat Yam.
Earlier this month Rabbi Mill’s synagogue was filled with people of all religions and races as they remembered the lives lost from the shooting that struck the heart of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life congregation.
“That someone would target a place of worship is really scary,” said Mills.
Since the latest shooting, places of worship all across Delmarva have upped their security.
“We upgraded all of our doors so that you have to have a key fob to get in or you have to be buzzed in,” said Father Chris LeBarge of the St. Francis de Sales Parish Catholic Church.
“We do have an armed person here now whenever we have services,” said Mills.
As local religious officials take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their congregation, Maryland and Delaware state officials are doing the same.
Currently senators Tom Carper, Chris Van Hollen and other lawmakers are pushing for stronger community safety funding for worship centers in the next year’s appropriations package.
“Historically it’s always been difficult to get government funds for religious institutions because of the separation of church and state but this is more about a question of Public Safety and so I think the government is willing to look into it,” said LeBarge.
Specifically, lawmakers are asking for a sufficient amount of funding to go to the United State’s Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.Which provides support for non-profit organizations like places of worship, schools, and more. And religious officials say this is a step in the right direction.
“There are enhancements we’ve done there’s always more we can do and with grant money we could definitely take advantage of it to make this place even more secure,” said Mills.
And officials add that they can only hope that one day people can feel safe again inside their own church.
“To eventually get to the point again where you can walk into a place of worship and not worry that your life might be in danger,” said Mills.
In the letter some of the U.S. senators wrote to ask for more funding to protect places of worship they stated “As long as the threat remains, we must take steps to ensure these facilities have the necessary resources to improve their security if they wish to do so.”