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DAMAGE TO RELIGIOUS PROPERTY

Summary:

    Section 247 of Title 18 prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, so long as the crime is committed in or affects interstate commerce. The statute also prohibits anyone from intentionally obstructing or attempting to obstruct, by force or threat of force, a person in the enjoyment of that person's religious beliefs, where the crime is committed in or affects interstate commerce. Finally, the statute prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with the property, regardless of any connection to interstate or foreign commerce. Section 247 also prohibits attempts to do any of the above.

    The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.

TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 247

    (a) Whoever, in any of the circumstances referred to in subsection (b) of this section--

    (1) intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempts to do so; or

    (2) intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person's free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so;

    shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).

    (b) The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the offense is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce.

    (c) Whoever intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with that religious property, or attempts to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).

    (d) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be--

    (1) if death results from acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death;

    (2) if bodily injury results to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this section, and the violation is by means of fire or an explosive, a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more that 40 years, or both;

    (3) if bodily injury to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this section, results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both; and

    (4) in any other case, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

    (e) No prosecution of any offense described in this section shall be undertaken by the United States except upon the notification in writing of the Attorney General or his designee that in his judgment a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

    (f) As used in this section, the term "religious real property" means any church, synagogue, mosque, religious cemetery, or other religious real property, including fixtures or religious objects contained within a place of religious worship .

    (g) No person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any noncapital offense under this section unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted not later than 7 years after the date on which the offense was committed.

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