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Mississippi’s lawmakers hard at work in D.C.

Mississippi’s congressional delegation are staying active in D.C.

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have  resumed their legislative effort to authorize a study that could result in designating the home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers as a National Park Service unit.

The Senators on Wednesday reintroduced their Medgar Evers House Study Act, which gained committee approval last July but was not considered by the full Senate before the end of the 114th Congress.

“We are committed to securing congressional authorization for the National Park Service to confirm the importance of the Medgar and Mylie Evers home in the history of the American civil rights movement,” Cochran said.

“Achieving a National Park Service unit designation is not an easy feat, but the historic home of the slain civil rights leader is certainly worthy of this recognition,” Wicker said. “This honor would be a fitting tribute to the life and work of Medgar Evers and his family. I am hopeful that my colleagues will join us in helping to make this a reality.”

The Senate bill would authorize a special resource study to evaluate the national significance of the Jackson home where Medgar Evers, a World War II veteran and civil rights leader, was murdered in June 1963.

The review would be used to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating the Evers home as a unit of the National Park System.  The National Park Service would also be directed to consider alternatives for preserving, protecting and interpreting the site by federal, state, or local governments, or private entities and organizations.

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.  Last year, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the Cochran-Wicker legislation.  The House approved Thompson’s companion measure by voice vote in September.

Tougaloo College, which acquired the Evers home in 1993 and designated it as a museum in 1997, supports the legislation.  The college has preserved the home and items related to Evers’ work and legacy.  The site is a designated Mississippi landmark under the State Antiquity Law and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter this week to committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) to request a comprehensive oversight hearing on the ongoing domestic terrorism threat to our nation’s religious institutions – including Jewish Community Centers – and to request a markup to pass the Securing American Non-Profit Organizations Against Terrorism Act (H.R. 1486).  This bill, introduced by Ranking Member Thompson, would authorize $30 million in grants for non-profits that the Department of Homeland Security deems to be at risk of a terrorist attack to improve their security.

In just the first three months of 2017, there has been a spate of threats in 32 states against 71 of the nation’s 151 Jewish Community Centers, five Anti-Defamation League locations, and several Jewish day schools.  In recent years, attacks and threats to religious institutions of all faiths have increased dramatically.  This increase is occurring as the Southern Poverty Law Center has announced the number of active hate groups in the United States last year rose to 917 – including 514 anti-Semitic groups, 547 White Nationalist groups, and 605 anti-Muslim groups.

In the letter, Ranking Member Thompson states:

Last Congress, in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine victims were killed while exercising their religious freedoms, I wrote to you requesting a hearing on the threat of domestic terrorism. Unfortunately, your response and the Committee’s oversight activities showed a lack of willingness to address all forms of violent extremists, especially from terrorist groups founded on racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim principals who have all targeted our Nation’s religious facilities.

 

The threat posed by violent extremism is not limited to a single ideology and that groups and individuals inspired by a wide range of religious, political, or other ideological beliefs have promoted and used violence against the United States. There are no easy solutions to this security challenge, as the paths to terrorism are as diverse as the perpetrators.  Nonetheless, our committee has a moral obligation and a Congressional responsibility to ask the tough questions and move forward legislation in an effort to protect our Nation from terrorism – no matter the source.  I look forward to our upcoming hearing and to working with you to address the growing threats to our religious facilities.

 

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