05162019CM1027SPRINGFIELD – People convicted of assault or battery in a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship would face stricter consequences under legislation carried by State Senator Rachelle Crowe.

Crowe, a Democrat from Glen Carbon, is pushing to add an aggravating factor to sentencing considerations for those who commit assault or battery when committed in religious settings.  

“This measure is initiating protections for people to worship freely without fear,” Crowe said. “We must take action against those who instigate attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues, and also seek more severe punishment for them.”

Aggravating factors can influence a court’s decision to include an imprisoning sentence or increase the chance for a more severe sentence.

This initiative continues the work of Senator Crowe’s predecessor, former State Senator Bill Haine. The legislation is in response to a shooting that occurred the First Baptist Church in Maryville in 2009, in which Rev. Fred Winters lost his life and two parishioners were injured.

“Church is one of the places you should feel the safest,” Cindy Winters, widow of Rev. Winters, said. “Fred’s death was heartbreaking, not only for me, but for our entire community, and I sympathize with those who have felt a comparable loss. I am extremely grateful to Senator Crowe for her work to get this passed.”

Current law distinguishes aggravated assault as a Class A misdemeanor and aggravated battery as a Class 3 felony. Crowe’s legislation would classify aggravated battery as a Class 1 felony when the accused causes great harm or permanent disability to a victim engaged in prayer or religious service.

“Advancing this legislation wouldn’t have been possible without Representative Mayfield’s sponsorship in the House,” Crowe said. “I am thankful for her work and commitment.”

House Bill 38 passed the Senate and is going back to the House of Representatives for a vote of concurrence.

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