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Sneed: Rauner opens up on religion in launching hate-crimes plan

Gov. Bruce Rauner | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times file photo

Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to step up big time to fight hate crimes in Illinois.

“To me, social justice and equal treatment and respect for each other’s religious freedom is so important, it has become a topic which makes me very emotional,” said Rauner, who presented a four-point plan on the issue at the Holocaust Museum Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Wednesday night.

“I am so passionate about it,” he told Sneed in a phone interview. “I come from a very diverse religious background and am very proud of the faiths that have comprised my family.

“My dad was Catholic. My mom was Swedish-Lutheran. So there was a compromise in the family and I was raised Episcopalian. My wife, Diana, is Jewish and proudly so. Some of our kids are Jewish and some are Christian.

“We have respect for each other and each other’s faith. And our different religious backgrounds make life more rich and fulfilling.


Rauner’s four-point plan entails:

• Improving law-enforcement training on hate crimes by developing a statewide standardized training plan for state troopers and local police departments in conjunction with the Illinois State Police and the Anti-Defamation League. “Illinois will also strengthen its partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect religious minority institutions across the state,” Rauner said.

• Expanding anti-hate lessons in schools by working with the Illinois State Board of Education to create “a dedicated portal to anti-hate education.”

• A proposal to prohibit state contracts with companies that boycott Israel. Illinois was “the first state in the country” to restrict “state pension funds from investing in countries that boycott Israel,” he said. Now, his administration “will work with the General Assembly to strengthen Illinois’ landmark” law by prohibiting companies that boycott Israel from being awarded state contracts.

• Supporting proposed legislation to increase penalties for acts of vandalism against houses of worship and religious centers. Should that legislation pass the General Assembly, the governor told Sneed he’d sign it promptly.

Rauner’s plan follows a wave of nationwide bomb threats against Jewish community centers, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and a bomb threat at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday at the Chicago Jewish Day School, part of the Emanuel Congregation Synagogue Complex at 5959 N. Sheridan Rd.

“These vicious verbal and physical assaults and shootings and bomb threats are really horrible,” Rauner said. “We’ve got to speak out more and move against hate and anti-Semitism and take action.”