SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Priztker has signed into law a bill advanced by state Sen. Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon, giving people stricter consequences if convicted of assault or battery in a place of worship.
“Attacks on people in vulnerable settings, especially in their place of worship are intolerable,” Crowe said. “Our world has gotten used to living in fear. But your church is one place you should feel safe.”
Crowe led the charge to add an aggravating factor to sentencing considerations for those who commit assault or battery in religious settings. Aggravating factors can influence a court’s decision to include an imprisoning sentence or increase the chance for a more severe sentence.
The initiative is a continuance of Crowe’s predecessor, former state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton. His legislation was in response to a 2009 traumatic shooting at the First Baptist Church in Maryville in which Rev. Fred Winters succumbed to his injuries.
“When I introduced this measure, it aimed to ensure those who commit this serious crime will face consequences for their actions,” said Bill Haine.
Winters’ widow, Cindy, said she hoped the legislation “can encourage the violence in our communities and places of worship to cease to exist.”
Crowe’s legislation also states aggravated battery is a Class 1 felony when the person causes great harm or permanent disability to a victim engaged in prayer or religious service. The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.
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August 13, 2019 at 02:17PM