SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A bill increasing penalties for individuals who commit religion-based hate crimes passed the Illinois House of Representatives with support from state Rep. Kathy Willis, D-Northlake.
“With the rise of deadly shootings in places of worship, there needs to be a policy in place that cracks down on assailants who commit murder in what should be a safe place,” Willis said. “People of faith deserve the security of engaging in their religious practices without fearing for their lives.”
Willis recently supported House Bill 38, which increases the penalties for inciting an act of violence in a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. Under current law, it is an aggravating factor in sentencing when the target of an attack is a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or child under the age of 12. The Willis-backed bill expands this classification to violent crimes occurring in places of worship and against those who are praying or engaged in religious activities.
Willis believes this is a step in the right direction to protect people’s religious freedoms, as well as reduce deadly gun crimes motivated by animus. In Illinois alone, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 31 known hate groups, some of which include Nazi-sympathizers like the Aryan Nations Sadistic Souls and the America First Committee. There are more than 1,000 hate groups nationwide.
“As we continue our efforts to prevent dangerous weapons from falling into the wrong hands, I want Illinois to have stronger laws on the books for those who commit hateful acts of violence against innocent people,” Willis said. “People of faith have the right to practice their religion in their place of worship free from harm, and this bill helps us offer that protection.”
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