Alaska Moves One Step Forward with Church Vandalism Bill

The potential enactment of legislation by the state House of Representatives would classify acts of vandalism targeting a church or any other property utilized by a religious organization as a crime in Alaska.

House Bill 238, introduced by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, was approved by a vote of 35-5 in the House. This bill will now be sent to the Senate for more deliberation.

According to Josephson, it is reasonable to argue that acts of injury inflicted upon a place of worship should be deemed more severe than a misdemeanor, as it falls under the category of criminal offenses that encompasses several instances of vandalism as defined by existing legislation.

Advocating for the law, he stated that the act of defacementing a church elicits a “community-wide reaction and response” because to its impact on the entire congregation. According to the speaker, the impact of vandalism on a particular firm is perceived to be limited.

According to Josephson, there is a higher level of penalization for church vandalism in 42 states compared to vandalism of items such as park benches.

“I desire to become a member of the 42 additional states,” he stated.

Reps cast five negative votes. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla; Ashley Carrick, a Democratic from Fairbanks; Sara Hannan, a Democratic from Juneau; CJ McCormick, a Democratic from Bethel; and Will Stapp, a Republican from Fairbanks.

Hannan expressed her dissatisfaction with the bill’s classification of church vandalism as a property offense. She expressed a preference for the classification of the incident as a hate crime.

According to Eastman, hate crimes necessitate the establishment of purpose by prosecutors, whereas HB 238 does not incorporate an intent threshold. According to his statement, individuals who engage in acts of vandalism towards a church may potentially be subjected to more severe criminal consequences, even if their intention was not to explicitly target the church.

Stapp’s rationale for abstaining from voting can be attributed to an error that transpired during the final reconsideration vote, which transpired at approximately 1 a.m. on Thursday morning. Consequently, he erroneously cast his vote subsequent to having earlier expressed support for the bill.

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