U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) legislation to make the desecration of cemeteries a violation of religious freedom was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The measure now advances to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Meng’s bill, the Protect Cemeteries Act, would amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the vandalizing of cemeteries as one of many infringements on the right to freedom of religion.
Although the bill applies to cemeteries around the world, it would have a significant impact on many residents of Queens. The borough is home to many immigrants who have family members and ancestors buried in their families’ homelands. In many cases, there are few or no relatives left in those distant communities to preserve and protect the graves, so it’s important that there be international laws to protect the cemeteries there. Also, the legislation originated from Meng’s constituents in Queens,
“Religiously motivated desecration of cemeteries unfortunately occurs with alarming regularity, but this legislation would be a new tool to help combat it,” said Meng. “The bill would also go a long way towards promoting preservation, tolerance and respect for cemeteries, and the committee’s passage of the measure says in a loud clear voice that this type of hate crime will not be tolerated anywhere in our society. I urge the House to quickly approve this legislation.”