Protecting Houses of Worship Training Held in Winterville, NC Helping to Mark 25th Anniversary of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
WINTERVILLE – Last week marked the 25th Anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), an important law protecting one of our most fundamental freedoms. The RFRA was approved by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, passing the House unanimously and approved 97 to 3 in the Senate, and signed into law by President Clinton. The RFRA ensures that our foundational freedom of religious liberty is protected: the right to believe, worship, and practice our faiths according to the dictates of our consciences. See more about the RFRA here.
In an effort to protect the right to worship in peace – on Thursday, November 15, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (USAO-EDNC) joined law enforcement and local area houses of worship in presenting training to security personnel from diverse faith communities on how to protect religious institutions and houses of worship from violence. The one-day Protecting Houses of Worship Seminar was held at Covenant Church in Winterville, NC, and was attended by approximately 100 people. This training was the second of its kind presented by the USAO-EDNC this year (more here).
United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr., opened the training, remarking, “The fight to preserve the free exercise of religion as a constitutional principle goes on today in our courts and in our public squares as we struggle to determine the parameters of that ‘freedom.’ But, the free exercise of our Faith as a social reality is under threat today from those who would introduce violence into our houses of worship and who would impede our rights through fear and intimidation.” United States Attorney Higdon continued, “In this difficult environment it is important that we work together to search for ways to ensure a greater level of security at houses of worship all across this country. And we in the United States Department of Justice want to partner with you and with our federal, state and local law enforcement to help equip you with the tools best designed to prepare you to deal with the security issues that may come your way.”
Through presentations and panel discussions, participants learned about security awareness for places of worship, as well as the various means by which law enforcement provides support to protecting houses of worship. Attendees heard from members of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office and Greenville Police Department during this training. In order to foster continued discussion among the attendees, representatives of local area houses of worship participated in a panel during which they discussed their particular experiences managing security for their respective house of worship.
This training was designed to support one of the Department of Justice priorities to ensure that all Americans feel free to worship in a place of their choosing without the fear of violence or intimidation.