State Legislators Introduce Bill To Increase Protections For Faith-Based Groups

The TRU Bill stemmed from conversations following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Shelby Cassesse
June 03, 2019 - 3:39 pm

Senator Jay Costa

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HARRISBURG (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Several state senators introduced new legislation Monday intended to increase safety for faith-based groups in Pennsylvania. 

The Tolerance, Respect, and Understanding (TRU) Bill would establish a Pennsylvania Nonprofit Security Grant Program to provide increased security measures for facilities used by faith-based organizations and aim to create a more supportive and tolerant environment. 

The legislation is co-sponsored by several state Senators, including Sens. Andy Dinniman, Judy Schwank and Jay Costa and was inspired by conversations between officials and community leaders following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in October. 

Schwank called the legislation "overdue."

"This bill will provide nonprofits with the ability to protect those who come through their doors," she said at a Monday press conference. "Metal detectors, surveillance equipment, electronic lock sets and trauma kits are a few examples of what could be provided to these organizations." 

Parts of the bill were modeled after Pennsylvania's School Safety and Community Violence Prevention and Reduction Grant Program, as well as the federal Hate Crime Prevention Act. 

Dinniman said the legislation is part of a series of three bills taking action against hate crimes, including a bill improving victims’ rights from Costa and combating vandalism of sacred spaces from Sen. Sharif Street.

"It is no longer enough just to say 'I'll pray for you' as event after event takes place in the commonwealth," Dinniman said. "We now need to act on our prayers."

Dinniman welcomed bipartisan support to the legislation, and said the initial $10 million investment in the bill would be viable in a projected state budget surplus of more than $800 million.