In Columbus, Portman Hosts Ohio Faith-Based Security Conference

Conference Highlights Best Practices for Protecting and Securing Religious Institutions

September 5, 2019 | Press Releases

COLUMBUS, OH – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman hosted an Ohio Faith-Based Security Conference to facilitate a conversation with federal and state security experts and stakeholders on best practices for how to prepare, prevent, respond, and recover from potential adverse events. The conference was comprised of a panel discussion as well as presentations focusing on best practices and funding opportunities for implementing security measures to help prevent attacks as well as how to best respond to potential threats. In addition, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Director of Public Safety Tom Stickrath, and Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Matthew Travis joined the event. 

The idea of bringing together faith-based groups and non-profit entities originated after a discussion Portman had with the Jewish community after the Pittsburgh Tree of Life tragedy in October of 2018.  Portman is working with DHS to help educate religious institutions on best practices for security, and today’s conference was a result of that collaborative effort. The conference was attended by leaders from various places of worship throughout Ohio representing the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Sikh communities. 

“Today we had a productive discussion regarding best practices and funding opportunities for implementing security measures to help prevent attacks as well as how to best respond to potential threats within the faith-based community. I was encouraged to see such a strong, diverse attendance and I’m grateful for our partnership at the state level with Governor DeWine and Director Strickrath as well as at the federal level with the Department of Homeland Security,” said Portman. Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one way Congress can help address unnecessary violence. The threats and attacks we’ve seen across our country are tragically becoming more and more common which is why I’ve worked to increase funding available through my bipartisan legislation – Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act – to help protect faith and cultural based institutions in Ohio and across our country.”

This past May, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation – the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act (S. 1539) – to authorize $75 million annually for FYs 2020-2024 for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help secure their facilities against a potential terrorist attack.  Of the $75 million total, $50 million will be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator.  

Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to increase funding for faith-based institutions and other nonprofits under the DHS Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Earlier this year Portman joined 32 of his bipartisan colleagues in sending a letter to Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, to request that appropriators provide a total of $75 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), in keeping with the funding levels authorized in his bill.  Last fall, Portman urged appropriators to approve $60 million in FY 2019 funding for this program, and that request was approved.  In 2017, Portman and Peters led a letter signed by all 100 of their colleagues to the Homeland Security Secretary, Attorney General, and FBI Director urging them to take swift action in response to the anonymous bomb threats being made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish Day Schools, and Synagogues across the country. 

Photos from the event are below: