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Connecticut offering $5 million to improve security for houses of worship

<i>WFSB</i><br/>Connecticut is offering $5 million in funding to help protect worshippers from hate crimes and violence.
WFSB
Connecticut is offering $5 million in funding to help protect worshippers from hate crimes and violence.

By Bryant Reed and Marcy Jones

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    HARTFORD, Connecticut (WFSB) — Houses of worship are getting help when it comes to improving security.

The state is offering up $5 million in funding to help protect worshippers from hate crimes and violence.

Leaders said it all stems from an uptick in religious crime and violence.

“I hope one day we do not need these funds, but until that time, we do need these funds,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, a Democrat.

Sen. Derek Slap, also a Democrat, said hate crimes and antisemitism have increased over the past year.

“These funds are for organizations that are deemed at a heightened risk of either hate crime or a domestic terrorist incident,” Slap said.

The money can be used for security cameras, fencing, or locks, officials said.

“I appreciate that somebody is looking out for us,” said Pastor Greg Gray from the Enfield United Church of Christ.

Congregations like the Enfield United Church of Christ said they have experienced hate first-hand.

It described itself as an open and affirming church that supports the LGBTQ community.

Back in June, the church was decorated with balloons and pride flags when two men interrupted Gray’s sermon with hate speech.

The church was targeted again just last month when police said a man wrote intimidating phrases on a bench outside. It was recorded by its security camera.

“This money will be especially helpful to those churches that might be targeted in their areas and don’t have cameras and systems in place,” Gray said.

Lawmakers said each group will have the chance to apply for up to $50,000, and there will be a risk assessment before being given the money.

Gray said love will prevail.

“We have used these events to really bolster our courage more than anything else,” he said.

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