Alabama Megachurch May Form Police Force Under New Law

Today in Security: Alabama Megachurch May Form Police Force Under New Law

​A new law in Alabama will grant a megachurch the right to establish its own law enforcement agency.

In June 2019, Governor Kay Ivey signed a law granting the Briarwood Presbyterian Church the right to establish a police force to cover its sanctuary, seminary, and schools, protecting 4,100 members and 2,850 students across multiple campuses. Church officials say that armed attacks on schools and churches make the new security measure necessary. 

The private law enforcement department would have the power to make arrests when crimes are committed on church properties. ​

Critics of the law say the megachurch already has private security personnel, and the new police force authority could be abused without checks, NPR reports​. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama expects the law will be challenged in the courts before it goes into effect in the fall.

A similar measure was proposed four years ago, but was dropped after opponents argued it breaches the separation between church and state by granting government power to a religious institution. ​

Protecting houses of worship is a challenge for parishioners and security practitioners around the world. Read more in this 2017 article on security risk analysis guides for houses of worship.