Jason Dunn United States Attorney for the District of Colorado has said that I started this job 6 months ago. I was sworn in on a Friday morning. The next morning, a young man opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11. My counterpart in Pittsburgh is now prosecuting that person for 11 murders and other federal crimes.
That night, my first full day on the job, I attended an interfaith vigil here in Denver at the Temple Emanuel synagogue. Not being Jewish nor ever having been to such an event, I didn’t know what to expect.
What I saw was an amazing display of compassion, love, and most of all, community. Many religions were represented – including the Islamic faith – and I had the opportunity to meet several leaders of your community.
As I started by job in earnest that next Monday, I quickly learned how engaged my office was with various religious groups throughout Colorado. We not only regularly meet with various religious groups to discuss how our office can protect the public while ensuring civil rights, but we have taken the affirmative step to develop a training program to help houses of worship better protect themselves from events like those in Pittsburgh, and now New Zealand.
I also quickly learned that there are more than 180 men and women in my office who work for cause of Justice every day. On behalf of each of them I bring you this important message: we stand with this community.
Our houses of worship are protected places. They are protected because this is where we are most vulnerable. And it is here where we exercise one of our most fundamental rights.
The time, place, and manner of attacks in New Zealand were calculated to inflict the most damage possible. Ripping 50 lives from this earth at time when they were most vulnerable — savaging the sanctity of prayer.
This calculated attack was designed to instill terror and fear not just in New Zealand, but around the world.
That’s why it’s so important to come together as a community.
Fear diminishes freedom. Our country prides itself on freedoms — freedom of speech, of religion, freedom of the right to assemble. This is part of what makes our country such a wonderful place to live. These rights belong to all of us, and we must not let fear take them away.
I want each of you to know that my office and I will enforce the laws to ensure that everyone here is safe — and feels safe — in their house of worship.
After this week’s attack in New Zealand, the prime minister identified two things the world must do in response. The first: show our support for the community directly impacted by this tragedy. And that’s what we are doing here this afternoon.
Prime Minister Ardern has noted that New Zealand is a land that welcomes diversity. She says there are more than 200 ethnicities in New Zealand. 160 languages spoken. Diversity unites the country and compassion is a shared value.
The Muslim community that was attacked had chosen Christchurch as their home. Many were refugees. And they came to New Zealand because that is where they felt safe to come and practice their faith, and to be part of a community.
What other country does this sound like? America is also a land of tremendous diversity. Instead of 160 languages, more than 350 languages are spoken in American homes.
Our country embraces diversity and understands that diversity, when combined with the rule of law, makes us stronger. Together, they define our national fabric.
This makes it is easy for us to do the second thing Prime Minister Ardern did in response to these attack: to clearly condemn and reject the ideology that motivated the savagery in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Ardern says there is no place for that ideology in New Zealand. And indeed, there is no place for that ideology in the World, in the U.S., or in Colorado.
I close with this — please know we stand with you.We grieve with you.And, most importantly, know that our office will enforce the laws that protect this and all other houses of worship.