The GOP Just Gave This Megachurch the Right to Form Its Own Police Force

The GOP Just Gave This Megachurch the Right to Form Its Own Police Force

Legislators in Alabama have approved the request by a megachurch allowing it to employ its own police force — something that’s unprecedented in the U.S., and raises concerns regarding the First Amendment as it pertains to The Constitution. 

This church wants its own police force — but IMAGINE THE REPUBLICAN OUTRAGE if a mosque wanted the same thing

The largely Republican state Senate passed legislation earlier this week that allows the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, to hire police officers in order to prevent a shooting at the K-12 school it runs on its property, Quartz reports. 

Briarwood belongs to the smaller, more conservative part of the nation’s two largest branches of the denomination, and church officials maintain that the church, with its 4,100 congregants and school with 2,000 students, needs the protection of a church-run police force, USA Today reports. 

The church officials claim that hiring local police — something that many churches do — isn’t the best option for Briarwood, because it frequently needs more police than local departments are able to provide. And they cite the horrific 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six staff members by a deranged gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut as the reason they want extra officers.

“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 who so heroically and effectively serve their communities,” the officials said in a statement.

And the state Senate approved the legislation in a 24-4 vote on Tuesday, giving Briarwood the permission to establish its own police force. Now the measure goes to the House, where many say it’s likely to pass. If it does, it will then wind go to governor Kay Ivey for her signature.

But this is a thorny issue, and critics, including the Alabama ACLU, say that Alabama Senate Bill 193 smudges the edges between church and state. They contend it’s an affront to the Constitution’s establishment clause that won’t hold water if challenged.

“It’s our view that this would plainly be unconstitutional,” said Randall Marshall, acting director of the Alabama branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This bill is coupled with another rather unattractive piece of legislation — Alabama House Bill 36,  which allows churches to designate some members of the congregation to be armed. But this bill also violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, and also won’t hold up to legal scrutiny, Marshall said. Both bills “inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations.”

“The proposal to authorize Briarwood Presbyterian Church to form its own police force places a core governmental function, with all the powers of the state, into the hands of a religious institution to exercise at its discretion with no governmental oversight,” Marshall said.

It would be nice if this was the only problem, but it isn’t.

“It also singles out one particular church out of the thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious entities in Alabama that may have other concerns, thereby favoring one specific religious group,” Marshall said.

What will some people do if a local mosque decides it needs its own police force? After all, Muslims are frequent victims of hate crimes. There’s even been occasions where people have been killed simply because someone thought they “looked” Muslim. But should a mosque acquire its own police force, more than a few Trump supporters will lose their minds.

And they won’t even understand the hypocrisy of the situation.

Related: Sorry, Republicans – Most People Really Do Prefer Clear Separation Of Church And State

The legislation has caught the attention of Muslim comedian and commentator Dean Obeidallah. Alabama mosques have recently received death threats, he notes, and the state has banned sharia, or Islamic law. Some opponents consider this Islamophobic and unnecessary, USAToday notes. 

Writing for The Daily Beast, Obeidallah noted that churches have a right to be safe, but he added:

“These are truly scary times. We have seen countless threats lately against Jewish temples and even seen mosques burned to the ground.”

He also referenced the murders of nine African-Americans by white supremacist Dylann Roof at their South Carolina church and the 2012 murders of six Sikhs at their Wisconsin temple by another man tied to white supremacist groups.

“But do you think if Muslims in Alabama asked to create their own police force to protect their mosque we would see the GOP members of the Alabama legislature be as supportive as they are to the Briarwood church?”

All of us have a right to be safe in church, in our own homes and at school. But Republicans have been itching to destroy that separation between church and state. The powers we entrust to the government should never, ever wind up in the hands of churches.

Ever.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

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raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App