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Protecting Houses of Worship

Protecting Houses of Worship in Washington State: A Federal Training Program


Graffiti at a Jewish temple …
Vandalism at a mosque …
Arson at a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall …

These are indicators of hate in our communities—hate that can escalate into even more violent attacks on houses of worship targeting those gathered to practice their faith. Specifically, Washington State has seen several assaults, targeted vandalism, and threats against churches, a gurdwara, mosques, synagogues, and temples.

The leaders of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Washington State want to do all they can to prevent such violence. Together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Attorneys Nick Brown in the western district (WDWA) and Vanessa Waldref in the eastern district (EDWA) organized a four-part training for faith leaders. Federal and local law enforcement agencies partnered to teach participants about preventative measures available to protect houses of worship.

  • Enhancing Building Security (Department of Homeland Security)
  • What to Do When Faced with an Active Shooter (FBI)
  • What We Know About Domestic and International Terrorism (FBI)
  • Prosecuting Hate Crimes (DOJ)
A prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church
People attended a prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019, in Poway, California, after a gunman opened fire at the Congregation Chabad synagogue on the last day of Passover, leaving one person dead and three others injured. (Getty Images)

In March 2022, the virtual series began with the Washington State Interfaith Conference for the Protection of Houses of Worship. The Stroum Jewish Community Center, SAFE Washington, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle organized the event for more than 80 people.

Both U.S. Attorneys affirmed their commitment to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. “Law enforcement has a vital role to play in protecting the public and marginalized groups from hate-motivated offenses and in communicating our shared values and fostering hope that our communities can be safer, stronger, and more inclusive,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. Moreover, both U.S. Attorneys stressed the importance of physical security practices and training to prevent and respond to threats against houses of worship. The FBI provided a localized threat assessment on domestic and international terrorism. Then leaders from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Community Relations Service (CRS), and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency highlighted efforts at their agencies to combat hate crimes.

At a recent interfaith gathering, U.S. Attorney Brown acknowledged that hate crimes are steadily increasing across the country. “As hate crimes rise, so too must we rise. Rise together in friendship as brothers and sisters, as neighbors, and rise to meet that challenge. As hate spreads, we must spread our influence and our resolve.”

Federal law enforcement continues to work to ensure that houses of worship and members of faith-based communities across the United States have as much information as possible to assist them in protecting against potential acts of hate and violence.

Additional Resources

Safety for faith-based events and houses of worship resource guide
DHS security self-assessment
FBI active shooter resources
Protecting Places of Worship Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders
Upcoming events

Updated November 18, 2022