Two members of the Sikh congregation embrace during a memorial service honoring victims of a mass shooting at an Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikh gurdwara. (AP Photo/ M. Spencer Green)
The United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service works with religious organizations, representing numerous faiths, to address real or perceived hate activity encountered following acts of vandalism or desecration, or to generally reduce tensions resulting from conflicts over the religious observances of the organization and its members. Specifically, CRS assists religious organizations by:
- Facilitating dialogues intended to help municipal officials, law enforcement agencies, and the broader community better understand the practices of the congregation and its members;
- Helping to prevent and respond to violence against faith-based communities, including the desecration or arson of places of worship and attacks against congregation members;
- Helping faith leaders develop and present cultural awareness and cultural competency trainings that are focused on improving relations, reducing tension and stigma, or serving as an introduction to the faith, when new houses of worship are relocating or being planned;
- Working to improve relationships with law enforcement, local government agencies, and the broader community following hate activity, when an influx of new or immigrant worshipers occurs, or when there is a general need to enhance mutual trust and respect; and
- Performs outreach in the wake of national events that affect religious organizations' members to ensure they are aware of available resources and to facilitate communication between federal, state, and local officials who can provide information on available assistance.
The following examples demonstrate work CRS has done with religious organizations in recent years. CRS's work is further captured in its Annual Reports, which can be found on the CRS Resource Center webpage.