Faith-Based Security Advisory Council meets on rising threats against synagogues, mosques, churches

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
New national group assesses threats to religious insittutions
The Faith-Based Security Advisory Council is comprised of 25 security experts and representatives of churches, synagogues and mosques from across the country.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The terrorist threat from radical domestic groups and violent lone-wolf actors has prompted the White House to assemble 25 security experts and representatives of churches, synagogues and mosques from across the country to fend off a rising tide of hatred.

The Faith-Based Security Advisory Council met this Monday morning, the I-Team learned, three days earlier than planned. The group includes former Cook County Homeland Security chief Mike Masters.

Masters is now National Director and CEO of the Secure Community Network (SCN), billed as the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America.

The group monitors threats to synagogues and other Jewish centers from its Chicago headquarters.

"Faith Based Community Network is designed to help bring those faith based groups together so that we can share best practices so that we can work together to confront this hate violent extremism and targeted violence that's impacting all of us and the country," said Masters.

The Faith-Based Security Advisory Council was established years ago and is being reconstituted as a new panel appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who spoke with the I-Team in August about the surge in violent threats against faith groups.

"Greatest terrorist threats we face today is the threat of domestic violent extremist acts of violence. Ideologies of hate," explained Mayorkas.

In Pittsburgh, four years ago this month, a man opened fire in a synagogue, killing 11 and wounding seven.

Last January at a synagogue in Texas a man held hostages for more than 10 hours as he livestreamed radical rants. A SWAT team ended the incident, killing the gunman.

Masters said the new task force could help prevent these incidents.

"The goal is fundamentally to look at ways that we can come together more strongly. How do faith based communities communicate during an event? How can they communicate more effectively when we think about the impact of targeted violence and so much of the hate that we see," he said.

The terrorist threat against American faith-based institutions spans all 50 states, largely because social media and the Dark Web have allowed violent radicals to communicate anonymously from anywhere.

In Illinois alone, extremist investigators have tracked nearly two dozen hate groups with many of the potential attackers masquerading under banners of faith organizations themselves.

With the holiest day in Judaism, Yom Kippur, beginning Tuesday at sundown, this is an especially sensitive time.