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State Senate Democrats from Philadelphia plan to introduce a bill that they say would give district attorneys “more options” to combat vandalism of religious sites following the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia.
The bill, introduced by freshman Sen. Sharif Street, a Democrat who represents parts of North Philadelphia, would make mostly minor technical changes to the state’s already-existing institutional vandalism statute. It adds language that would penalize any person who “attempts to” damage an institution.
It would also amend the existing law to include not just “churches and synagogues,” but also a “mosque or any other facility or place used for religious worship or other religious purposes.”
Street’s legislation would also make it a third degree felony “if the act is one of desecration or if the actor causes pecuniary loss, which includes the cost of repair or replacement of the property affected, in excess of $2,000.”
“A threat to any religious group is unacceptable in a nation that prides itself on the free exercise of religion,” Street said in a prepared statement. “We must stand up to those who attack or threaten people or institutions because of what they believe.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia).
Here’s a look at the proposed changes to the existing law: