New York Bill Expands Hate Crime Criteria to Help Protect Houses of Worship

| 04/16/2024

By: Our Sunday Visitor

There was a 90% increase in hate crimes statewide in New York between 2020 and 2022, per state data

A New York City Police Department reward poster for a suspect in an alleged hate crime attack hangs from a fence in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood January 22, 2024.
A New York City Police Department reward poster for a suspect in an alleged hate crime attack hangs from a fence in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood January 22, 2024. The New York State Catholic Conference has thrown its support behind state lawmakers' effort in the New York Legislature to expand its hate crimes statute. (OSV News photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Legislation in New York state would expand the state’s criteria for a hate crime to include trespassing on houses of worship.

The New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) said in a memo April 9 to Empire State lawmakers that it strongly supports Senate Bill S7040 and Assembly Bill 6929, which, if enacted by the state Legislature, would add trespassing on a house of worship to the state’s parameters of a hate crime.

“Current geopolitical events, culture wars and societal divisions have led to a significant increase in attacks on religious groups,” the NYSCC said. “This dangerous trend threatens the sacred right to religious freedom. Worshippers are living in fear as people are hurt, or worse. Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been desecrated and damaged. We must do more to put an end to this horror and protect religious liberty. This proposal is a good first step, and we applaud the sponsors for introducing it.”

The memo added: “Religious bigotry and hate cannot go unchecked. During these frightening times, we must come together and stand strong against violence and intolerance. We urge you to enact this critical piece of legislation.”

There was a 90% increase in hate crimes statewide in New York between 2020 and 2022, per state data. The New York Police Department reported an additional spike in hate crimes following Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, with many such incidents of hate crimes directed at Jewish New Yorkers. State data also shows online hate speech directed toward both Jewish and Muslim communities since then is up 425% and 417% respectively.

In January, Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., backed other efforts to expand the list of charges eligible to be prosecuted as hate crimes.

“The rising tide of hate is abhorrent and unacceptable — and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochul said in a statement at the time. “We will never rest until all New Yorkers feel safe, regardless of who they are, who they love, or how they worship,” she said.

A prominent Catholic church in the state recently experienced an incident of trespass.

Three protesters from a group called “Extinction Rebellion (XR) NYC Palestine Solidarity” were arrested after disrupting the March 30 Easter Vigil — the most solemn religious celebration of the Catholic Church in the calendar year — at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

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Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X.

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