The Alabama senate passed a bill on Tuesday that will allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama the right to create its own police force to patrol its grounds and schools. These officers have to remain on the church property but will be “invested with all the power of law enforcement officers” in Alabama, according to the bill that won by a 24-4 vote in the state Senate. A version of the bill failed last year, after passing both houses but the governor at the time, Gov. Robert Bentley, refused to sign it into law. Concerns over the creation of private security forces were cited by the administration. But apparently that concern has been muted for the new governor, and so the bill might actually get signed into law.
The orignators of this bill cite the fact that religious educational institutions of higher learning, such as BYU and other universities, have their own police forces. They claim to want to “mirror” a code of Alabama law that allows for the employment of one or more law enforcement officers at a college or private educational institution. They cite practical reasons, reaching back to the tragedy at Sandy Hook for their justification as a need to have first responders on hand for their members and to coordinate with the local community.
Let’s look at this. First of all, I want to ask, WHY does a church, specifically a predominantly WHITE mainstream-denomination church need a police force of its very own? Historically, the churches that have been the scenes of violence have been the BLACK churches, particularly in the South. Just ask any member of the Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. This sounds suspiciously like a case of Christian paranoia running rampant.
Secondly, I want to know what oversight there will be for this police force? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Will there be transparency, or will there be the usual religious exemption from scutiny? Alabama has already encountered a problem here, with its religious day schools. They have been the subject of a number of articles detailing abuse and neglect. But, due to the fact that they are run by RELIGIOUS organizations, and that means CHRISTIAN, in case you were wondering, the State Department of Human Resouces has no way to even investigate these stories. I imagine that, should Briarwood be allowed to establish its police force, a similar religious exemption from accountability will most likely be part of the bargain. Just one of those little believer’s perks….
Third, I’m wondering if Alabama (and other states to follow) will grant similar privileges to NON-CHRISTIAN places that might want their own police force? I’m willing to bet that mosques and synagogues need police officers (for the congregants’ protection) WAY more than churches do! (Unless you are an African American Christian. Then you DO need your own police force. Plus, a police force to protect you FROM the first police force.) And Hindu temples need them, too. Ignorant people now think Indians are Muslim terrorists and want to kill them. And let’s not forget the Pastafarians! The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster deserves a police force! Seriously, can you imagine Trump’s America giving a MOSQUE, even one with a madrassa, permission to have its own police force? Or even a synagogue? Snort! I don’t see it happening. (Though let me just say, that as a Jew, the idea of a bunch of goyishe policemen surrounding me at shul would NOT make me feel safer….my bubbe would be whispering from her grave, “Run, kindele, run!”)
I’m going to keep an eye on this story. Alabama…sigh. Doing its best to make Mississippi look “not so bad”. But, hey, at least no-one from the state made any Hitler references yet (publicly, that is).