Montgomery County grants $200,000 in security funds to local faith organizations

By Max London

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced March 22 that the county will award $200,000 in security grant funding to 12 local, primarily Jewish and Muslim faith-based organizations to combat hate crimes.

This announcement came less than a month after a gunman killed 50 people March 15 in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. An April 27 shooting at a California synagogue killed one, and more locally, MCPS has seen a rush of religiously-motivated incidents in schools. According to Montgomery County Police, there were 93 bias incidents—including vandalism, assault, and verbal intimidation—in the county reported in 2018.

The county allotted $100,000 to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and $20,000 to each of the following organizations: The Islamic Community Center of Potomac, The Islamic Education Center, The Islamic Society of the Washington area and The Muslim Community Center. The rest of the money—$20,000—was divided between seven other organizations.

“This grant is another way Montgomery County affirms our support for our neighbors of every religion, race and ethnicity and demonstrates our steadfast commitment to protect basic human rights,” Elrich said in a press release. “While there is no information about specific, recent threats in Montgomery County, the senseless and vile act that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand reminds us that hate and evil can callously destroy peace without warning.”

Elrich tasked a panel with reviewing applications from faith-based organizations to assess the possible threats that each organization faces in order to allot varying amounts of grant money based on need. The panel then sent its recommendations to Elrich, who approved the funding. The County was unable to award funding to all applicants but will offer additional trainings to faith-based facilities in the coming year.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness of DC, located in Potomac, received $1,000. The grant and presence of security will help to reassure the community, ISKCON of DC community president Ananda Vrindavan said.

“As community president, my job is to look out for the well-being and safety of all of our guests and those who have come to the temple for different functions,” Vrindavan said. “If I’m able to add some extra security on those events, it helps me feel like I’ve done my job a little bit better and will hopefully prevent anything from happening if something were to happen.”

The county also granted $4,500 to the Takoma Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Church leaders discussed more security measures following the 2015 mass shooting of nine African Americans during a prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s unfortunate that places of worship have to worry about security issues, Pastor Daniel Xisto said.

“Us being able to get these funds to help with our security is sad in a way, because I wish that money could be going to something else, something more beneficial to the community and more uplifting to those who come to our church,” Xisto said.

Whitman language teacher Farah Kinani agreed, and said that students and teachers can help by promoting acceptance and knowledge about different religions.

“It’s sad that we have to do this, but unfortunately, it’s a reality of the world we live in, and we need to work toward changing mentalities.”