The Alabama House of Representatives may soon vote on whether a megachurch in Birmingham can establish its own armed police force, after the Alabama Senate gave the megachurch its approval, reports NPR. The bill approved by the Alabama Senate states that Briarwood Presbyterian Church “needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.”
Matt Moore, the church’s administrator, stated that “personnel employed by the church will meet all requirements and be certified by the Alabama Peace Officer Training Commission.” He also stated that the police force would be restricted to the church’s campus, and that any of its responses to an emergency situation would be done in coordination with local authorities.
According to NBC News, however, local police groups have expressed their belief that Briarwood Presbyterian Church doesn’t need a police force, due to deputies of nearby countries patrolling its campus. Randall Marshall, the legal director of the ACLU of Alabama, expressed the ACLU of Alabama’s opposition to both Briarwood’s request and a bill that would give churches in Alabama permission to hire armed congregants and protect them legally if they shoot anyone.
“It’s our view this would be plainly unconstitutional,” said Randall Marshall.
The bill that, if passed, would enable Briarwood to establish its own armed police force, passed the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate in 2016. However, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley didn’t sign it into law.
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