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  4. DHS Releases Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities

DHS Releases Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities

Release Date: December 6, 2023

Developed by CISA, Performance Goals are Tailored for Faith-Based Organizations to Enhance Security

WASHINGTON – Building on longstanding efforts and redoubling work to support faith-based communities in response to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), released new resources to help houses of worship and other faith-based organizations enhance their security. These Physical Security Performance Goals – modeled after the successful Cybersecurity Performance Goals – are a collection of cost-effective actions specifically tailored for faith-based organizations that can be implemented to reduce risk without sacrificing accessibility. This is the latest resource the Biden-Harris Administration is offering to faith-based organizations in response to the current heightened threat environment.

“In this continued heightened threat environment, the Department of Homeland Security is committed to protecting every American’s right to live, express, and worship their faith freely and in safety,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The physical security performance goals we are releasing today provide churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based institutions with cost-effective, accessible, and readily implementable strategies to enhance their security and reduce the risk to their communities. I strongly urge all faith-based institutions to take advantage of this new resource and incorporate the security practices it outlines.”

“CISA remains fully committed to its longstanding partnership with faith-based leaders to advance the protection of houses of worship while preserving their open and welcoming environments,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly. “The agency has a long track record of supporting faith-based communities in improving physical and cyber security practices.  These performance goals are the latest example.”

Because Houses of Worship are the center for regular faith-based services and gatherings across the country, they are vulnerable as potential targets for malicious actors. The Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Organizations establish a baseline set of security practices to help houses of worship plan for, protect against, and respond to threats. Understanding that all facilities are different, the goals allow organizations to create tailored, actionable plans that will address their specific needs and serve their community.

“While the threat environment continues to be challenging across all faiths, houses of worship and other faith-based organizations and people are often targets. Preparedness is key to mitigating risk,” said Mayya Saab, Executive Director of the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization and DHS Faith-Based Security Advisory Council Member. “The Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities resource provides a visual guide to a goal setting activity that can help houses of worship and faith-based organizations prioritize security goals based on understanding their unique risk. The guide will be especially helpful to less resourced houses of worship.”

“The Secure Community Network is proud to partner with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the highest quality guidance for faith-based communities amidst a time of increased threat of hate and violence,” said Michael Masters, Secure Community Network National Director & CEO and DHS Faith-Based Security Advisory Council Member. “The opportunity to offer our organizational expertise throughout this process reflects the commitment of the Department and its leadership to ensure the safety and security of faith-based communities across the country. DHS guidance continues to set a high standard and example that our community is proud to follow, and we look forward to the work of our continued partnership.”

“This Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities is a clear, concise, and convenient tool that is outstanding for any religious organization seeking to establish performance goals and protocols for response,” said Ako Cromwell, Director of Global Security, African Methodist Episcopal Church. “While it is particularly useful for those of us in the faith-based community, the fundamentals delineated in this product are applicable across the spectrum for security professionals.  As always, we are most grateful to President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, and all our Department of Homeland Security partners for their tireless efforts to keep us informed and secure.”

“Threats to houses of worship in the United States are increasingly complex and widespread, ranging from domestic hate ideologies to challenges intensified by transnational repression and geopolitical events,” said Sim J. Singh Attariwala, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager of the Sikh Coalition. “We maintain that the federal government plays a pivotal role in safeguarding our communities. This responsibility includes providing comprehensive and accessible resources, such as this document, to address both home-grown and international threats effectively.”

As the Israel-Hamas conflict has escalated, DHS has met with hundreds of community leaders in addition to coordinating with state and local enforcement and has disseminated Departmental resources to ensure faith-based communities can access available resources in one place. The Department continues to engage with communities through our Faith-Based Security Advisory Council and through the Protecting Places of Worship initiative, an effort co-led by DHS, the Department of Justice and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Through CISA’s regional security advisors, the Department also provides resources such as conducting assistance visits, vulnerability assessments, providing training, security and threat awareness and help to develop drills and exercises. Additionally, through the Department’s CP3 regional prevention coordinators, the Department shares information with community leaders on how to prevent acts of violence at the earliest possible stage.

In recent years, CISA has significantly increased its regional presence to meet the needs of stakeholders, including in faith-based communities, and regularly conducts extensive outreach to raise awareness of the available tools and resources that CISA makes available. You can read more about CISA's support to faith-based communities on CISA.gov.

Last Updated: 12/07/2023
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