NJOHSP Hosts Interfaith Advisory Council Meeting To Protect And Promote Religious Freedom Throughout New Jersey
NEW JERSEY STRONG news – New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness reports 6.25.2019. ROBBINSVILLE, NJ – On June 25, Governor Philip D. Murphy and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) held their quarterly Interfaith Advisory Council (IAC) meeting at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Over 300 IAC members, high-ranking State officials, and law enforcement executives were in attendance.
“The Interfaith Advisory Council is working hard to secure safe places of worship for congregations of all faiths,” said Governor Murphy. “These meetings have led to open communication with law enforcement built on relationships of mutual trust and respect to ensure that, regardless of faith or religion, we can come together as one.”
The meeting consisted of intelligence briefings on threats and trends that could possibly affect houses of worship throughout the State. NJOHSP also provided information on suspicious activity reports (SARs), particularly as they relate to religious communities. Additionally, the event served as an opportunity for Governor Murphy, as well as NJOHSP’s law enforcement partners, to have senior leadership or command staff available to directly engage with the council.
“Hate has no place in New Jersey,” said Jared M. Maples, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. “We speak stronger when we speak together with one unified voice. The sharing of best practices is key in knowing what threats or issues your community may face down the road.”
“As we see crimes and acts of violence motivated by bias continue to rise across our state and country, it’s absolutely critical that law enforcement and faith communities join together to ensure the safety and well-being of all,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “We must send a message that we treat an act of hate against any one of our communities as an act of hate against all of our communities. By gathering and working together as we are today, we can not only protect all our residents and religious communities, but we can also help identify additional ways to push back against the rising tide of hate and intolerance we are witnessing in this moment.”
Founded in 2012, the IAC encourages frank dialogue and two-way communication between government and faith-based organizations, helping to strengthen the goodwill that is so critical to the law enforcement and homeland security enterprise. To supplement these key activities, NJOHSP provides security training, at no cost, and facilitates the availability of grant opportunities for nonprofit organizations in these communities to improve facility security and develop their own training programs.
“The IAC has played a critical role in facilitating dialogue between law enforcement and communities of faith before emergency situations happen,” said Evan R. Bernstein, ADL’s New York/New Jersey Regional Director. “This only strengthens our ability to stand united against all forms of hate in New Jersey.”
Through NJOHSP, eligible houses of worship can also apply for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) and the New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program (NJ NSGPP). The NSGP provides funding to eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that are at a high risk of terrorist attacks and located within designated areas of New Jersey. Funds from this grant program are used to purchase and install security equipment on property owned or leased by the nonprofit organization. Select items that can be purchased include CCTV, card access readers, blast film, lighting, fencing, and bollards. The NJ NSGPP provides a total of $1 million for eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations determined to be at a high risk of terrorist attack. Funds through this grant program are used to expand existing security personnel or to hire permanent or temporary security personnel for the purpose of preparedness and reduction of vulnerability.
“Hosting the IAC meeting with Gov. Murphy and OHSP Director Maples was a great honor as diverse faiths come together in New Jersey with law enforcement to ensure awareness, preparedness and ultimately the safety our state’s houses of worship,” said Kanu Patel, CEO BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Over the past seven years, the IAC has grown exponentially and now boasts over 3,000 members throughout all 21 counties in New Jersey.
For more information about the IAC, please visit https://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/interfaith.