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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Faith Leaders Discuss Efforts to Enhance DHS’s Work to Protect Houses of Worship

This week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas convened a meeting of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC), reconstituted in September of 2022. At the meeting on Tuesday, June 6, Secretary Mayorkas and Deputy Secretary Tien emphasized the Department’s commitment to better supporting faith communities across the country in matters of security and preparedness. FBSAC members presented their recommendations to the entire Council on how DHS can improve information sharing, increase access to DHS grants and resources, and build trust and partnerships with faith-based organizations, leaders, and communities.

“Faith-based institutions are pillars of our communities. They are vital partners in every aspect of the Department’s mission,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “I was proud to convene this important group to discuss opportunities for the Department to strengthen our daily work with communities of faith and the public at large. We are grateful for the recommendations the Council offered, and for its members’ continued service to our country. I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure a safe, secure, and resilient America for all.”

During the meeting, three FBSAC subcommittees presented their draft reports to the Council on several taskings:

  • The Information Sharing Subcommittee provided recommendations on how the Department can better help places of worship, faith communities, and faith-based organizations enhance their security and preparedness. For example, one recommendation is to prioritize better outreach and information flow to faith-based organizations through technology solutions.
  • The Grants and Resources Subcommittee provided recommendations on how the Department can address challenges that faith-based organizations encounter when applying for DHS grants. For example, one recommendation is to expand resource accessibility through increased translation services, networks, and outreach.
  • The Building Trust and Partnerships Subcommittee provided recommendations on how the Department can build trust with faith community stakeholders and empower local leaders to more effectively use DHS resources. For example, one recommendation is to create an online portal to improve DHS’s data sharing with faith communities and increase transparency.

Following the presentations, the reports were deliberated on and unanimously accepted by the Council. After the Council formally submits the reports to the Secretary, the Department will review the reports and determine an implementation plan.

In September 2022, Secretary Mayorkas announced the appointment of 25 members to the reinvigorated Faith-Based Security Advisory Council. The Council’s membership, with representatives from the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities, as well as law enforcement, reflects President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ priorities on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and ensures a wide range of diverse voices across various faith traditions. Council members advise the Secretary on security and preparedness matters related to places of worship, faith communities, and faith-based organizations across all aspects of the DHS mission. The Council met virtually for its first convening on October 6, 2022. The Council convened virtually for a second time on November 29, 2022, during which they were verbally tasked by Secretary Mayorkas with forming the three subcommittees that presented their findings this week.

To learn more about the Council, please visit: https://www.dhs.gov/faith-based-security-advisory-council

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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