Michigan joins 35 other states with statutes banning targeted vandalism
LANSING, Mich., Dec. 11, 2023 — House Bills 4476 and 4477, introduced by state Reps. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield) and Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), respectively, were signed into law last week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Known collectively as the Institutional Desecration Act, the bills specify vandalism against houses of worship, minority-owned businesses and community centers above other destruction of property.
“Current law conflates attacks on houses of worship, cultural and community centers, minority-owned businesses, and other institutions with petty acts of vandalism – failing to recognize that attacks on our most sacred spaces terrorize and victimize entire communities,” said Arbit, sponsor of HB 4476. “I introduced the Institutional Desecration Act to strengthen efforts to prevent and prosecute hate crimes targeting these communal institutions. This legislation is deeply personal to me, both as a Jewish Michigander and as state representative for my religiously diverse community in Greater West Bloomfield. The passage of the Institutional Desecration Act marks a historic, long-overdue stride in Michigan’s battle against hate crimes, and I could not be prouder to see this bipartisan legislation become law.”
HB 4476 was developed by marrying the structure of current hate crime law while preserving the existing sentencing regime of malicious destruction of property, and adding a restorative alternative sentencing option. This approach takes advantage of best practices developed in 35 other states with such a statute, as well as workable existing elements of Michigan law. HB 4477 updates relevant sentencing guidelines.
“People of faith must feel safe practicing their beliefs. It was time to strengthen Michigan’s response to rising hate crimes and protect houses of worship,” Puri said. “I’m proud these bills, now public acts, will provide law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to seek justice and accountability for heinous acts of violence.”
In Michigan and across the nation, there has been a rise in acts of institutional vandalism, including attacks on Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids in 2019, the Ahavas Israel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, in 2020, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Center in Rochester Hills in 2021, and the Woodward Avenue Shul in Royal Oak in 2023.
“All Michiganders deserve safety and respect regardless of religion, ethnicity or background. Desecrating places of worship is particularly vile and cannot be taken lightly,” said state Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn). “This package is crucial to empower local law enforcement with the ability to pursue consequences for those who take part in religious intimidation. I am glad we are one step closer to a more welcoming Michigan.”