As part of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, CRS’s mandate was expanded to work with communities facing conflict based on religion. CRS facilitates communication among religious leaders, educational institutions, elected officials, law enforcement agencies, and community members to develop relationships and mechanisms that effectively prevent and respond to religion-based conflicts. Some examples of how CRS supports communities experiencing tension and conflicts based on religion are below:
- Facilitating dialogues between law enforcement agencies and religious community members following hate crimes or acts of vandalism based on religion to improve police-community relations, ensure the safety of congregations, and inform community members of available resources
- Providing multicultural training to law enforcement agencies, government officials, service providers, and community members on cultural norms and customs, to increase understanding of different faiths, and provide best practices for interacting with individuals of different faiths
- Conducting programs and leading dialogues with school officials, teachers, and students to prevent bullying based on religion both inside and outside of educational institutions
Below are some recent examples of CRS's work assisting communities experiencing religion-based tension and conflict. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.
Providing facilitated dialogue and consultation services to the community and law enforcement in Memphis, Tennessee
In March 2017, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) requested facilitated dialogue and consultation services from CRS following reports that community groups planned to stage protests amid racial tensions in the community and nationally.
The protestors sought to bring public attention to social injustices in the community, and the possibility of a larger protest was anticipated. In 2016, Memphis experienced a massive protest that resulted in the shutdown of the Hernando de Soto Bridge on Interstate 40. With tensions high in the region, MPD Police Director Michael Rallings requested CRS’s assistance in ensuring that the MPD had a productive dialogue with the community.
CRS provided technical assistance to the MPD as it prepared to host a public forum to address policing concerns expressed by African American community members. The event was designed to give the community an opportunity to provide input on solutions and strategies when interacting with police officers.
The forum took place in July 2017 and approximately 120 community members attended. CRS facilitated a dialogue between the community and the forum panelists, which included members of the MPD, state government, faith-based groups, civil rights organizations, and community youth.