Congregation Shaarey Tefilla on West 116th Street in Carmel was targeted by vandals who spray painted a Nazi flag and other symbols on the property.
Justin L. Mack, justin.mack@Indystar.com
INDIANAPOLISÂ â€” Indiana’s governor called Monday for lawmakers to pass hate-crime legislation after anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered this weekend at a synagogue in suburban Carmel.
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law; Arkansas, Georgia, Utah and Wyoming are the others, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that helps fight all forms of hate. Proponents say such a law could help prevent similar acts of vandalism and crime.
â€œNo law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said. â€œFor that reason it is my intent that we get something done this next legislative session, so Indiana can be 1 of 46 states with hate crimes legislation â€” and not 1 of 5 states without it.”
Republican leadersÂ previously have said they are open to the idea of hate crimes legislation, but no bills have made it to the governor’s desk in the most recentÂ three legislative sessions.
â–º July 29: Anti-Semitic graffiti found at Indiana synagogue
â–º March 30: Reward offered in hunt for New Jersey synagogue vandal
â–º Dec. 10: FBI: Reported hate crimes up 29% in Michigan last year
A Nazi flag and a pair of iron crosses, a German military decoration that Adolf Hitler turned into a Nazi symbol, was spray painted on two walls of a brick shed that surrounds a garbage bin atÂ Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Carmel. The damage apparently occurred between 11 p.m. ET Friday and 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to investigators.
Grass in front of one of the Nazi flags has burn marks in two places, and a portion of one flag also has burn marks on the brick wall.
“For me to see this, it kind of hits home,”Â congregant Eli Keren of Carmel said Sunday.Â “I’mÂ first generation after the Holocaust.Â My fatherâ€™s family is from Poland. My motherâ€™s family is from Hungary. And 90 percent of our family went up in smoke just under this particular flag in (concentration camps) and this kind of hate and bigotry.”
â–º July 2017: ‘Weâ€™re not ashamed’: Family may leave anti-Semitic graffiti uncovered
â–º April 2017: Israel indicts hacker linked to threats on U.S. Jewish centers
No suspects have been arrested in connection with the crime, which likely would be a vandalism charge.
Social conservatives in the Indiana Statehouse have continued to push back against hate-crime legislation, arguing it would create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently, or impact free speech.Â Proposed protections targeting LGBT hate crimes have proven to be a significant stumbling block.
“To me, it’s very difficult to say something is more or less a crime based on somebody’s motivation,” said GOP state Rep. Tom Washburne of Inglefield in killing a bias crimes bill in 2016. “So when you separate it and you try to create a special crime for it, what you’re saying is that if somebody’s on a street corner and they get beat up because somebody hates tall people and they happen to not be in any protected status, that’s less of a crime than if they beat you up because of your national origin.”
â–º March 2017: Jewish Community Center threats symbolic of a rise in hate crimes
â–º February 2017: Jewish sites reported 31 threats Monday; more than 100 in ’17
In 2017, the bill was held up in the Indiana Senate as lawmakers struggled to come to an agreement on the language. Republican state Rep. Susan Glick refused to open up her bill to amendments on the Senate floor, which effectively killed it Feb. 27, 2017, the same day the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis received bomb threats.
Indiana law enforcement reportedÂ 78 cases of hate crimes in 2017, according to an annual state report. That number may be much higher, however, because many law enforcement agencies don’t submit hate crime data.
â–º February 2017: Vice President Pence condemns vandalism at Jewish cemetery
â–º February 2017: Subway riders use unusual method to zap swastikas
Already judges in Indiana can use their own discretion to consider other factors when determining a sentence apart from the crime itself, such as if the act was a hate crime.
Other states take their hate crime language a step forward and consider a hate crime its own prosecutableÂ offense.
Contributing: Tony Cook, The Indianapolis Star. Follow Kaitlin Lange on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law with penalties, even though local police agencies are supposed to report them. Just what is a hate crime here?