The Briarwood Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Alabama is seeking to establish its own police force. The megachurch is home to 4,100 members, a K-12 school, and a 2,000 member seminary. For these reasons they feel they need additional, and more personal security. A bill to give the church a private police force is already working its way through state government.
NBC reports: “After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement,” church administrator Matt Moore said in a statement, referring to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a deranged man with an AR-15 style rifle just before Christmas 2012.
“The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests.”
The church would pay the bill for its officers.
Alabama law “provides for the employment of one or more persons to act as police officers at colleges and other private educational institutions,” Moore wrote.
Well… I guess that it is technically a school. A tax exempt school, but a school nonetheless.
Proponents of this bill include Alabama Senate Majority Leader J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, which is about as Alabama a name as you can get. Opponents of the church-police, and thus obviously Satan worshipers, include the state ACLU.
“It’s our view this would plainly be unconstitutional,” Randall Marshall, the ACLU’s Acting Executive Director, told NBC News.
In a memo to the legislature, Marshall said they believe the bills “violate the First Amendment or the U.S. Constitution and, if enacted, would not survive a legal challenge.”
Waggoner, whose voter biography lists him as a member of another church, did not return a telephone call and email to explain why Briarwood needs its own police force.
I don’t know enough about the situation to make a judgment call, but I would like to leave you with this thought: If the megachurch gets its own police force, that opens the door for other religious institutions to get their own police forces. The local mosque getting some security totally isn’t going to get anybody riled up!