New Jersey lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle want to make sure there's no confusion in schools and on college campuses — discrimination based on religion is as bad as discrimination against one's race, sex or national origin.

With the specific goal of tackling the issue of anti-Semitism in public schools and institutions of higher education, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and state Sen. Robert Singer, R-Monmouth, have introduced legislation that expressly prohibits discrimination based on religion.

"We've seen, unfortunately, a rise in anti-Semitism generally," Singer told Townsquare Media. "We want to make sure people understand ... It's not tolerated or acceptable any time, any place, any way."

The proposed law is meant to ensure students are not denied admission into a school based on their religion, and that policies or practices motivated by anti-Semitic intent are treated the same as other forms of discrimination.

"It is hard to explain the trauma a young Jewish child experiences when they walk into a classroom and see a swastika on the chalkboard," Singer said. "Anti-Semitism is a cancer on society and it is growing in New Jersey."

A recent report found there were 200 documented incidents negatively targeting Jewish people in New Jersey in 2018. That's the third highest total in the country.

"We have a responsibility to teach our children the value of tolerance, and ensure they are living in an environment where everybody has the same opportunity to succeed," said Sweeney.

Current state law broadly prohibits discrimination based on a number of factors, including "creed," which has been widely interpreted as one's religion. The new bill explicitly expands the categories protected under the law.

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