An Alabama megachurch has been granted the authority to create its own police force, leaving the American Civil Liberties Union howling in protest.
Briarwood Presbyterian Church, located near Birmingham, Alabama, and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America, was granted the authority to hire police in a bill that passed the state legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.
The 4,100-member church operates schools in Jefferson and Shelby counties that attract about 2,000 students.
The church and its schools “may appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to keep off intruders and prevent trespass upon and damage to the property … These persons shall be charged with all the duties and invested with all the powers of police officers, including the power of arrest for unlawful acts committed on the property,” the law states, according to Al.com.
He said the law will be challenged because it gives government power to a religious institution. The ACLU and other liberals vented their outrage about the law on Twitter, saying past allegations about the church should have stopped it from being able to have its own police.
These attempts to undermine the separation of church and state are a threat to our freedom of religion and a violation of the Establishment Clause. We expect this law to be challenged in the courts. #alpolitics https://t.co/JaLA0Uhqwr
— ACLU of Alabama (@ACLUAlabama) June 21, 2019
Alabama Quietly Passes Law Allowing Church With History of Racism and Homophobia to Form Its Own Police Force
Briarwood Presbyterian Church can now create a law enforcement agency to arrest a& detain anyone who breaks the law on the church propertyhttps://t.co/hnCGNErFmh
— Kim Moore (@SoulRevision) June 20, 2019
The church has been seeking a police officer on its grounds for several years.
“Briarwood Presbyterian Church is very concerned with the safety of its members, students and visitors in these times of uncertainty when schools, churches, shopping malls and other places that do not have protection are randomly attacked,” Briarwood said in a 2017 news release on its website.
“We believe it is in the best interest of our members, students and visitors to provide the best protection possible for them with the least amount of intrusion upon their worship, school and other activities.”
At that time, the church addressed the issue of separating church and state.
“[I]t has been suggested to us that the state law permitting Briarwood Presbyterian Church to have a police officer on staff would violate the Establishment of Religion Clause in the U.S. Constitution. We are assured by counsel that this is not an Establishment Clause issue,” the church’s statement said.
“The church does not have the ability to exercise any authority or enforce any law at any place except on the church property and related to criminal acts which may take place on that property. Even then, arrests and other procedures that may follow are done in conjunction with local law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office.”
A media release from Briarwood posted by WBRC in response to being given the go-ahead to hire police officers said the request stems from a 2016 state task force on the safety of educational institutions.
“The report recognized that the presence of qualified first responders and law enforcement officers has proven to be the number one line of defense in providing a safe environment, and recommended that each Alabama school have a resource officer on location,” the statement said.
A 2017 release also noted that the church does not put all of its trust in police officers.
“While seeking to be responsible, ultimately the church proclaims that its trust is in the Lord of Glory who sovereignly cares and provides for His people. To Him alone be Glory and Honor now and forevermore,” the release said.
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