HARTFORD, CT — A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic faiths Tuesday to seek approval of $5 million in bonding to harden and secure places of worship.
The state Capitol press conference, which included members of the House and Senate, was put together less than 48 hours after the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven was set on fire in what appears to be an intentional act of arson.
“We don’t yet have all the facts and details regarding the arson attack in New Haven, but no one should feel unsafe or unwelcome in their place of worship,” Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said. “Churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are pillars of our communities where people gather, joining together as one.”
Anwar said the last thing on a person’s mind when they go to a place of worship should be their safety.
Michael Bloom, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said houses of worship need help to pay for hardening, such as reinforced doors, bulletproof windows, keyless entries, and cameras.
“They’re expensive and unfortunately necessary in this day and age,” Bloom said.
Rabbi Tuvia Brander said the world has changed.
“I grieve for our children who while practicing their own faith need to practice now lockdown drills and evacuation procedures, while learning about their own religious heritages, need to learn about active shooters and evacuation routes,” Brander said. “Our country was built on the foundation of religious freedoms and at her core endowed by our creator was the right to assemble peacefully and safely. Today we need to reaffirm our commitment to those values.”
Brander added: “I don’t want to gather for any more vigils, so we need to be more vigilant.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said there is precedent for the legislature to mandate the expenditure of bond funds in a specific fiscal year.
He said once the funding is approved then faith communities can apply for the funds through a grant process.
Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, said they also had conversations with the governor’s office about the need for the funding.
The governor’s office controls the Bond Commission agenda and the allocation of the funds.