Stricter penalties for crimes in houses of worship

Champaign County

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The penalties for crimes committed in houses of worship have increased across the state, effective January 1, 2020.

Governor Pritzker signed the bill back in August. It enhances crimes such as assault and battery committed in a church, synagogue, mosque or another building for a place of worship to aggravated assault or aggravated battery. The stricter penalties could lead to harsher sentences.

Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Alan Cook said while he’s glad there are more legal repercussions, he wants to see a multi-faceted approach.

“Without education, without introduction to who is this group you’ve been so indoctrinated to hate, I think there needs to be that component as well and I’m always about trying to educate,” he said.

Religious hate crimes, and anti-Semitism in particular, have been in the national focus recently, following a series of anti-Semitic attacks in New York, including a stabbing at a rabbi’s home during Hanukkah.

“To see people turn against one another and strike out against one another for basically just trying to express themselves and to express what they have found as their path to faith and truth and light is very upsetting,” Cook said. “I think we need to try to rise above the division and dissension and encourage people to embrace one another and to reach out to one another.”

Thousands marched in solidarity over the weekend, not only in New York, but across the country.

Cook said the only way to rise above the proliferation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, bigotry and misogyny is by learning to live with one another in peace.

“As we’re entering a new year, I think that the alternative of retreating into our corners or allowing hate to win in any way is not an attractive alternative or a viable option,” Cook said. “I hope that we will learn how to communicate with one another and to live in peace and harmony.”

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