Law enforcement agencies to host forum about religious hate crimes
Days after spray-painted swastikas were discovered at a suburban school, the Lake County state's attorney's office announced it will co-host a forum about religious hate crimes, particularly those at temples, churches and other houses of worship.
The gathering is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, Jan 10, at the Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan. It's free and open to religious leaders of all faiths.
Speakers will include State's Attorney Michael Nerheim, Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham and representatives from the Lake County sheriff's office, the FBI and the U.S. Homeland Security Department.
The forum will delve into the growing problem of religious-based hate crimes.
Reports of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault are up 110% in the Midwest and up 48% nationally since 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group especially focused on anti-Jewish hate.
Earlier this week, three swastikas were discovered spray-painted on a wall and on playground equipment at Seth Paine Elementary School in Lake Zurich. The case remains under investigation, police said Friday.
Additionally, growing anti-Semitic violence in New York has gained international attention. Most recently, five people were wounded by a machete-wielding assailant during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home.
And in Texas, two worshippers were killed Sunday after a gunman wearing a disguise opened fire in a church. The gunman also was killed during the attack, a motive for which hasn't been revealed.
The Waukegan forum will focus on ways to prevent hate crimes against places of worship, and how to respond to such crimes. A review of state and federal hate crime laws is planned, too.
Speakers will talk about general security measures as well, such as fortifying religious buildings and developing emergency plans.
Security isn't needed only during services, either. Religious leaders and parishioners must be vigilant when serving meals to visitors, during child-care programs and during other activities, Cunningham said.
"This is something you need to incorporate in your daily operations, whether on Sunday or during the week," Cunningham said.
The event won't emphasize any one religion or denomination.
"Lake County is a diverse community consisting of congregations of just about every religious belief," Nerheim said. "Places of worship from all faiths have been the targets of violence, and the goal of this event is to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that violence does not strike here."
The forum is being held at the theater because it's a large, religiously neutral venue, Nerheim said.
To RSVP or receive more information, email Jackie Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org, Maria Borjon at email@example.com or Kenith Bergeron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSVPs are requested by Monday.