DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — As millions get ready to celebrate Passover and Easter, Pennsylvania’s governor announces more than $5 million in funding to help religious organizations combat hate crimes.
Salem United Church says they are targeted because they openly welcome LGBTQ members and say they have had to replace this rainbow flag out front at least a dozen times over the last few years.EXCLUSIVE: Teen Pilot Who Landed Plane On Bridge In Ocean City Shares How He Survived New Mexico Plane Crash
The church says this money is critical to helping them continue their mission.
In 2017, Salem United Church of Christ voted unanimously to become an open religious center and began displaying the rainbow flag outside its Doylestown congregation, proud to welcome all people.
“We really see ourselves kind of as a sanctuary, a safe space,” Pastor David Green said.
But that symbol has also been a target.
“They get torn, they get broken off at the poll. Sometimes they just disappear,” Green said.
Pastor Green says he’s had to replace about a dozen flags so far and showed us the storage closet where he keeps extras.READ MORE: Police: 4-Year-Old In Stable But Critical Condition After Being Struck By SUV In West Philly
“I just ordered them in bulk. Right now, we’re actually kind of low,” Green said.
Religious Director Amy Krulik has also witnessed hate crimes in her two decades-plus career.
“Terrible, curse-filled hate speech directed at Jews, swastikas all over our building,” Krulik said.
Now as the executive director of Main Line Reform Temple, Krulik says her team often gets criticized for signs displaying its advocacy for racial justice.
“Some people have said we should take it down, it’s been up there long enough,” Krulik said.
FBI data shows hate crimes peaked in 2020. It’s why news of more than $5 million in state funding earmarked for safety improvements — including lighting, video surveillance, along with cyber security — is needed now more than ever for those who remain undeterred in the face of hate.
“We just keep putting them right back up. We order them in bulk and nothing is going to stop us from doing that,” Green said.MORE NEWS: Jordan Burnham Turns Suicide Attempt Into Years Of Advocacy As Teens Face Epidemic Of Depression
In total, 120 organizations, including 36 local religious centers from Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties are recipients of this grant.