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6 Arkansas religious nonprofits receive state funds for security in light of Middle East war

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6 Arkansas religious nonprofits receive state funds for security in light of Middle East war

Feb 13, 2024 | 6:26 pm ET
By Tess Vrbin
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6 Arkansas religious nonprofits receive state funds for security in light of Middle East war
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The Arkansas State Capitol. (Dwain Hebda/Arkansas Advocate)

Six religious organizations throughout Arkansas will receive a state-funded grant from the Department of Public Safety to enhance their security, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the department announced Tuesday in a press release.

Lawmakers gave $500,000 to DPS in December, and religious organizations applied for the Right to Worship Safely Grant money between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.

The funds are meant to “support physical security enhancements and other security activities for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack based on the organization’s ideology or mission,” DPS Secretary and State Police Director Mike Hagar wrote in his Nov. 2 funding request. He cited increasing safety concerns following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that has resulted in an ongoing war in the Middle East.

These groups received the following amounts:

  • Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock: $74,449
  • Chabad Lubavitch of Arkansas in Little Rock: $60,000
  • Congregation Agudath Achim in Little Rock: $43,200
  • Congregation House of Israel in Hot Springs: $11,273
  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hot Springs: $8,065
  • Subiaco Abbey in Logan County: $30,805

The six grants total $227,792, less than half of the available funds. Twenty-five other groups applied but did not meet the grant requirements, and all 31 groups requested more than $2.1 million collectively, according to the press release.

Religious or spiritual 501(c)(3) nonprofits based in Arkansas were eligible for the grant if they “received an active terrorist threat(s) and/or extremist attack(s) in the past twelve months” and if DPS considered the threat credible, the press release states.

DPS modeled the grant program after the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which distributes federal funds to nonprofits for security purposes, and nonprofits that had previously received money through this program would be considered first, Hagar told the Arkansas Legislative Council in November.

At the same meeting, the council authorized its chairmen to direct the requested $500,000 to DPS upon receipt of a grant distribution plan.

The grant is the state’s first “avenue to provide aid for those at high risk for a terrorist attack,” according to DPS’ press release.

Upon receiving questions from lawmakers in November about the need for the grant program, Hagar said authorities had cause for “great concern” due to a “temperature increase” in the “chatter” on social media sites since Oct. 7.

He agreed to provide quarterly reports to the Legislative Council on the use of the grant funds.