Local nonprofit shines light on senate bill for improved security at houses of worship

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The Arizona Faith Network (AFN) is supporting Senate Bill 1713, which is aimed at helping to improve security measures at small and medium sized houses of worship. For more on the legislation, Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons was joined by Paul Rockower, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, and Reverend Gerald Richard, Executive Board of Directors for the AFN and Pastor of Prince Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I’m so glad to see a collaboration by so many different religious groups that have come together in the AFN,” said Richard. “Having been a church that has been vandalized and has gone through this on a number of occasions, there wasn’t the funds readily available in order to assist us as far as repairing our church.”

This state-based nonprofit security grant program will offer small- and medium-sized houses of worship access to streamlined security funding and will complement the federal program in support of vital security. This will help religious communities do things like install security cameras, gates and fences that make a facility harder to penetrate and assist with the hiring of security guards.

The current federal program does not meet the needs of smaller nonprofits that cannot meet upfront costs and wait for reimbursement even though they may face the same threats as larger nonprofits.

“It also requires a capital outlay, so houses of worship have to put out the money up front with only about a 50 percent chance of being reimbursed,” said Rockower.

As Rockower points out, SB 1713 does two things that benefit small houses of worship. First, if a house of worship applies to the federal program and does not get in, the application automatically rolls over into the state program. Second, it creates a streamlined process that allows small- and medium-sized houses of worship to apply directly to the state program.

Paul Rockower, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, and Reverend Gerald Richard, Executive Board of Directors for the Arizona Faith Network and Pastor of Prince Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church

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