Alabama church wants to create its own police force

SB 193 is headed to the Senate for a full vote

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The Independent US

A church in Alabama is seeking to create its own police force with the same power as local law enforcement — and just got one step closer.

Last week, Alabama's Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send SB 193 to the Senate for a full vote. If enacted, the law would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church to assemble, employ, and enable its own police force under the state’s nonprofit corporate law.

The church, which is located 10 miles south of downtown Birmingham, is home to a K-12 school and theological seminary. Leaders are claiming that the house of worship needs its own police to protect its 4,000 some members and 2,000 students and teachers, NBC News reports.

The bill even has its own sponsor, Senate Majority Leader JT “Jabo” Waggoner, one of the longest-serving members of the legislature.

"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, referencing the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

"The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests."

Local law enforcement officers told NBC News that the church lies between Jefferson and Shelby County and deputies from both counties already police its jurisdiction. The nearby area is also patrolled by the Vestavia Hills Police Department.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is arguing that the legislation unconstitutional.

“Vesting state police powers in a church police force violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Randall Marshall, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “These bills unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations.”