Why government-funded security for places of worship is a bad idea

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Pradip Rodrigues

Following a rash of arson, vandalism and attacks congregants in Canada in recent years, the federal government has been allocating an increasing amount of taxpayer dollars into enhancing the security of places of worship. The 2019 budget has made available $4 million annually.

Public Safety Canada has spent more than $7-million since 2012 upgrading security at religious institutions through its Security Infrastructure Program. More than 200 groups have received funding through the program and 90 per cent of the grant money has gone to the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Many new places of worship are applying for this funding under the Security Infrastructure Program happen to be non-Christian religions and it is almost certain that almost every one of them will be lining up to receive funds to boost their security, regardless of how much tax free charitable donations they receive from their communities. In February, $90,000 in federal funding was allocated to a Mississauga mosque to help strengthen its security measures which includes installing close circuit cameras.

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In the UK, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has doubled Government funding for security at mosques and other places of worship in the wake of the New Zealand attack.

The amount available for religious buildings seeking to enhance security on their premises will rise to £1.6 million in 2019-20.

Launched in 2016, the places of worship security fund helps churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras in England and Wales to install alarms, security lighting, fencing and CCTV cameras to deter attackers.

In addition, a new £5 million fund will be set up to provide protective security training for places of worship.

In March Australia announced grants from $50,000 to $1.5 million will be made available for safety measures such as closed-circuit television cameras, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, security systems and public address systems.

But from all indications, terrorists and lone wolf actors don’t seem deterred by the presence of security cameras and other security measures. In fact, many of them are filming their attacks and posting it on social media, seeing cameras everywhere may actually encourage them to commit their despicable acts.

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I support places of worship putting in place reasonable security and congregants and members of the community should be obliged to pool in their resources to enhance security. Why should taxpayers have to pay for the installation of security systems unless the place of worship is a tourist attraction or the congregation is desperately poor.

These days most of those committing acts of vandalism do so at places of worship despite security systems that are in place. If for example, a terrorist who wants to kill innocent congregants praying can simply walk into a crowded place of worship and do his thing. Nothing short of having airport-style security at every place of worship will eliminate the danger to life and property and it is simply not practical for any government in the world to ensure that level of protection.

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It is a sad that places of worship are now soft targets for those intent on committing a hate crime. Having said that, going forward, all places of worship should be zoned in non-residential areas to ensure innocent residents living around these places of worship aren’t caught in the crossfire. Living next door to a place of worship carries a fair share of risk.

Across Canada there are dozens of places of worship being built or going to be built in the years to come. Many of these mega places of worship cost millions of dollars to build and from many indications, the communities tend to fund generously.

Most people who go to places of worship have a certain amount of faith in the man or woman above and believe that a higher power keeps them safe. Apparently, they don’t seem so sure anymore and would rather place their security in the hands of the government. When it comes to security there isn’t any separation of Church and State. -CINEWS

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