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Religious Groups

Religious leaders from up to 12 different faiths listen to a service to denounce religious intolerance
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CRS works with religious organizations from all faiths to address real or perceived hate crime and hate incidents within the community. Some ways CRS works to support religious groups are:

  • Co-hosting forums to educate communities on hate crime prevention and response, and provide best practices and resources on how to secure places of worship
  • Facilitating dialogues among religious groups, community members, government agencies, and law enforcement to strengthening community relations and identify collaborative solutions for hate crime prevention and response
  • Providing training to law enforcement, government officials, and others on religious customs, cultures, and practices of the Muslim and Sikh communities to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work with religious groups. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

Case Highlights

In the fall of 2019, a local government representative contacted CRS following a spate of alleged anti-Semitic incidents, including instances where a group of men reportedly targeted and assaulted several Jewish men and boys while crossing the street and where a man hit a rabbi with a paving stone. According to a New York Police Department (NYPD) report, anti-Semitic hate crimes across New York City increased by 30% from 2018 to 2019, while overall hate crimes increased by 19%.

CRS met with representatives from the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office and interfaith leaders to form a planning group to address the incidents and improve dialogue between law enforcement and the community. CRS had previously communicated with local Jewish community organizations following an earlier attack on a Jewish man in September 2019 and reached out to them again. These organizations also joined the planning group. The group agreed to plan a CRS Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum. Additional participants joined the planning group, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state human rights office, and local human rights office.

In January 2020, city leaders hosted the PPOW forum, which provided the local interfaith community with opportunities for collaboration as well as resources and information regarding securing their places of worship. The forum included a discussion on hate crime prosecutions and investigations, an overview of the FBI’s active shooter response training, and a panel on strategies for protecting places of worship. Panelists at the PPOW included representatives from the federal and state law enforcement. More than 100 community members, including members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, attended the forum.

Forum participants asked panelists about the recent series of reported anti-Semitic attacks and federal, county, and local law enforcement representatives advised that their offices were investigating the attacks as hate crimes. Prosecutors ultimately filed hate crime charges in one of the incidents.

In March 2020, CRS facilitated a Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to address local religious communities’ concerns regarding a national increase in religiously motivated hate crimes. Many Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities across the United States experienced fear after recent anti-Semitic events, including the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Chabad-Lubavitch of Poway synagogue shooting outside San Diego, California, in April 2019.

In the fall of 2019, based on a long-standing relationship with CRS, government officials contacted CRS to request a PPOW forum. CRS worked with the community to form an interfaith planning group that included local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith leaders and advocates as well as government leaders, including officials from the commission and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (USAO-MDPA). CRS convened meetings of the planning group in January and February 2020 to help coordinate the forum, which also included representatives from the local community and education. Leaders of local religious organizations and members of the community in the working group were interested in learning more about creating a safe and secure environment for faith-based communities, information on how to report hate and bias incidents, and resources to help faith-based communities before and after hate and bias incidents.

Approximately 80 people attended the forum, which was hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg and held at the Jewish Community Center in Harrisburg. Panelists included representatives of Harrisburg’s Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, and Latino communities, and government agencies, including the USAO-MDPA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Pennsylvania State Police, and Harrisburg Police Department.

Panelists shared information about religion-based hate crimes, federal and state hate crimes laws, and how to conduct threat assessments and protect places of worship from bias incidents and hate crimes. The forum also fostered networking and community outreach and provided resources to participants, such as examples of security plans and community responses.

On October 31, 2017, community tension increased following reports that federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges against a Muslim man for allegedly crashing a truck into pedestrians on the Hudson River Park’s bike path, killing eight and injuring 11 others. Reports indicated hate crimes targeting Muslims increased in the alleged terrorist’s hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Due to this sudden increase in reported hate crimes and the corresponding tensions in Paterson’s Muslim community, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (USAO-NJ) and a local county prosecutor’s office asked CRS to conduct a Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum.

CRS formed a planning group in early October 2018 comprised of representatives from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, and a local prosecutor’s office to organize the event, plan discussion topics, and identify panelists.

On December 4, 2018, approximately 100 members from the city’s African American, Jewish, white, Latino, and Muslim communities; as well as students attended the forum. The panelists were comprised of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness; the USAO-NJ; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; Passaic Police Department; Anti-Defamation League representatives; and faith-based community leaders. The participants convened for a three-part Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum to raise awareness of bias-motivated incidents and hate crimes, promote an exchange of ideas, increase communication among participants, and improve police-community relations. CRS facilitated the forum that included panel discussions and question and answer sessions with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian community leaders; the USAO-NJ; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; and local law enforcement. Throughout the forum, participants expressed concerns about the rise in national hate crimes and the need to secure houses of worship.

After the forum, CRS continued working with the Attorney General’s Office to facilitate Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forums across the state and raise awareness of bias-motivated crimes.

Resources for You

Toolkit: Working with Religious Groups (PDF)

Contingency Planning Checklist (PDF)

Event Marshals Tipsheet (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Protecting Places of Worship Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Facilitating Meetings Around Community Conflict (PDF)

Engaging and Building Partnerships with Muslim Americans (PDF)

Engaging and Building Partnerships with Sikh Americans (PDF)

City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Protecting Places of Worship (PDF)

Working with Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, and Hindu Communities (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated January 2, 2024