An Alabama church will now get to have its own police force, a perk typically reserved for places like public universities.
It’s actually a demand that was made two years ago when Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills wanted permission from state legislators to operate their own cops. (So much for the power of prayer…)
This time, however, with Republican Gov. Kay Ivey at the helm, an identical bill sailed through the legislature and got Ivey’s signature without a problem. HB309 was signed into law on Wednesday. It will allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Briarwood Christian School, and Madison Academy (a private Christian K-12 school) to establish their own police forces.
The whole premise, though, raises so many questions.
- Why does a church need its own cops?(How many horrible things are happening there…?)
- Does the state have authority over this police force, especially if something goes wrong? If they do, would they be getting entangled in a church matter?
- If the police act unlawfully, despite the required training, who has the power to discipline them?
- Can any religious institution demand its own police force? (One lawyer certainly thinks so.)
- Do the police have to sign statements of faith, pledging their agreement with the church’s beliefs?
- Can citizens challenge what these cops do? Can they take them to court?
- Why can’t the church, like every other organization, just ask for and rent protection when needed?
- How does this impact how pastors handle sexual assault allegations?
Policing is problematic enough as it is. Just wait until the church police begin making headlines. (And Briarwood has a long racist history that doesn’t inspire optimism.)
A lawsuit may already be in the works, according the ACLU of Alabama:
Randall Marshall, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, says the law could allow the church to cover-up criminal activity that occurs on its campuses. He expects the law to be challenged in the courts for unconstitutionally granting government power to a religious institution.
You know this would never get a green light from Alabama politicians if it were a large mosque asking for the same privilege. But remember: In this country, Christians are always allowed to bend the rules in their favor.
The new law goes into effect this fall. Unless a judge puts a stop to it.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)