WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is "aggressively and appropriately" enforcing hate crimes laws and laws protecting churches and faith groups, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday, two days after 11 people were shot dead in a mass shooting inside a Pittsburg synagogue.
Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice is going to courts across America to defend the rights of people of faith, Sessions said at an event in Boston, The Trump administration, he said, is aggressively and appropriately enforcing civil rights laws, hate crimes laws, and laws protecting churches and faith groups.
"Since January 2017, we have obtained 14 indictments and 10 convictions in cases involving arson or other attacks or threats against houses of worship and against individuals because of their religion," he said.
"Over the last 12 months, the Department has obtained 30 hate crime convictions, and since January 2017, has indicted 50 more such defendants.
And this weekend, we added once again to this list.
We charged Robert Bowers with 29 federal counts for the heinous murders at the Tree of Life Congregation," Sessions said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced a grant of more than USD 840,000 to University of New Hampshire to conduct a national survey of hate crime incidents and victimisation.
He also announced that a USD 10 million technical assistance programme launched last March by Sessions will now include the prosecution and prevention of hate crimes.
Rosenstein said the Department of Justice will continue to work with partners to prevent hate crimes and make all of our neighbourhoods free from violence and fear.
Since January 2017, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 50 defendants for hate crimes.
Many of the cases were filed under the Shepard-Byrd Act, he said.
"In August 2018, a defendant was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to federal hate crimes and firearm charges for shooting three men at a bar in Olathe, Kansas," he added.
"The defendant shot and killed an Indian engineer named Srinivas Kuchibhotla and attempted to kill an Indian co-worker and a third man who came to their aid. The crime was motivated by bias," Rosenstein said.
Earlier this month, Congress, with the support of the administration, enacted legislation that strengthens another federal hate crime law and further protects religious freedom.
This law, the Church Arson Prevention Act, protects the rights of individuals at all houses of worship, to exercise their religious beliefs free from force or threats of force, Rosenstein said.
The Department also announced the launch of a hate crimes website.
"Hate crimes are an attack on a fundamental principle of the United States to be free from fear of violence because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, religion, or national origin," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division at a round table.