By Jennifer Thornton
U.S. Department of Justice
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, is urging religious leaders to watch for signs of extremism and learn how to report violent threats or incidents against places of worship and their members.
In recent months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted a man who set fire to a church in Baltimore, Ohio, and a man who made antisemitic and violent statements online while employed to provide security services at Columbus synagogues and Jewish schools.
Parker and members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies recently met with church, mosque, temple and synagogue leaders in Columbus and Cincinnati to discuss best practices for protecting places of worship and their congregants, and how federal and state laws are used to prosecute people who threaten or damage those institutions and engage in other acts of religious violence.
“We want to assist the communities we serve by providing information about best practices for preventing targeted violence and guidance for how houses of worship can protect themselves against acts of vandalism and arson,” Parker told the assembled religious leaders.
Parker was joined at the outreach events by J. William Rivers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Division, Darryck Dean with the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, and investigators with the U.S. Secret Service at both meetings. Hamilton County Prosecutor Melissa Powers and Anthony Pierson with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as intelligence officers with the police departments in Cincinnati and Columbus participated.
If you have information about a possible threat to a place of worship or believe you are a victim of or a witness to a hate crime, you can contact your local law enforcement agency, call the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI- or submit a tip to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report these or any other potential Civil Rights violations directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office using a referral form available at the office’s main website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdoh, or by leaving a voicemail on our Civil Rights Tip Line at 513-684-2055.
“I will continue to meet with groups concerned about hate-motivated attacks and am dedicated to providing faith-based leaders and congregations with resources like threat assessments and safety plans to help protect our places of sanctuary and blessedness from unjust and unprovoked attacks,” said Parker.