Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into legislation this week a law that allows Briarwood Presbyterian Church and its affiliated school to form their own private police forces.
The new law would authorize the 4,000-member church to hire police officers and create forces “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 of its two school campuses and its church.
The law states that the church “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.”
Any officer employed by the church will have to complete state certified training by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. They will also be trained to carry and use a nonlethal weapon.
The church has been pushing for approval from state legislation to have their own police power for several years, according to NBC News. The locations of the schools, off Interstate 459 and on Cahaba Valley Road are one of the main concerns. Another is that many of its 2,000 students and their parents, located in Shelby and Jefferson counties, have safety concerns related to the 2012 mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The church says it already pays for private security and that it would be much cheaper if they were finally allowed to hire their own police officers.
Many are pleased to hear that such actions are being taken towards school safety and say that this type of law is precisely what the founders of our nation created the Second Amendment for. In addition, many agree that this is a much more cost-efficient way to handle such security issues.
However, not everyone is so agreeable to the new law set to take effect in the fall. Some critics even claim that it is dangerous. Alabama ACLU executive director Randall Marshall “says the law could allow the church to cover-up criminal activity that occurs on its campuses,” according to the Associated Press. He adds that he thinks others will challenge it in court “for unconstitutionally granting the government power to a religious institution.”
As Ian Hoppe from Al.com explained several years ago when the issue was first raised, “Some people are worried that this is going to be an armed militia enforcing the Bible. It’s most certainly not that. The church maintains that its just two guys in a car doing security. It’s just a little more complicated than that.”
Legislation passed a previous version of the law two years ago and according to Michael Harriot from the Root, “politicians let the bill die amid public outcry over the separation of church and state, the congregation’s history of racism and its public homophobia.”
The two schools of the church would not be the only ones in the state of Alabama who have granted the right to employ its own police force. Several colleges and universities, including at least one private, Christian institution have has similar rights for decades.
Madison Academy, a Church of Christ-affiliated school with 850 students, was also given those same right this week when Governor Ivey signed the law into existence.