DHS gives agency heads two weeks to provide plans to protect houses of worship
Geneva Sands, CNN
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(CNN) — In the wake of the mass stabbing at an upstate New York Hanukkah celebration, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf directed the department’s agencies to review recommendations for preventing attacks on houses of worship and faith-based communities.
In an internal memo Thursday, Wolf gave agency heads 14 days to review recent recommendations made by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and provide implementation plans. The memo, obtained by CNN, comes about two weeks after the council released a report urging the department to implement a series of suggestions for improving the way the federal government helps protect of religious institutions.
The council warned that if its report was not turned “expeditiously” into a plan, then it would join similar “2012 and 2014 reports on the shelf.”
The advisory council recommendations included creating a central point of contact at DHS and re-investing in a two-way information sharing portal that vetted members of the faith community can access.
For example, the Muslim community in Minnesota expressed frustration that while they frequently reported suspicious activity to authorities, they seldom received a follow-up, according to the council’s report. These feelings were echoed by a Jewish community in Montana and a Christian community in Louisiana.
Five people were wounded in Saturday night’s stabbing incident, which was the second stabbing in Monsey, New York, since November. An Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed several times on November 20 while walking to synagogue, officials said.
Former acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan called on the advisory council in May to make recommendations after a string of attacks against synagogues, churches, temples and mosques.
“The right to practice religion free of interference or fear is one of our nation’s most fundamental and indelible rights,” Wolf wrote in Thursday’s memo. “As such, the targeting of houses of worship by violent extremists of any ideology is particularly abhorrent and must be prevented.”
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