It was reported this week that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that would grant a megachurch in her state the right to form its own police force on its grounds and private school campus.
Ivey actually signed the legislation around two weeks ago, The Christian Post reported, allowing the Briarwood Presbyterian Church the go-ahead to form its own police unit separate from local authorities in Shelby County and Jefferson township. No official start date of such a police force has been formally established by the church as of yet.
The move was necessary, the church claimed in a statement, due to its need to protect 2,000 students and 4,000 parishioners that utilize the facilities, WBRC reported. While the church expressed thanks to local law enforcement, it said that those entities couldn’t respond fast enough to the church’s and school’s needs in an emergency situation.
There are many concerns about the private police force acting on the megachurch’s grounds, however, and the ACLU of Alabama plans to appeal the law’s implementation, citing a clear violation of the separation between church and state.
“We will continue to fight any plans to create a state-sanctioned, church-operated police force,” they added.
One of the concerns is that the new law could allow the church’s police force to neglect the duties that normal police departments are charged with fulfilling. Abuses or other law infractions that the church may not want to make public could be hidden by the church-run police, for example.
The church has a troubling history when it comes to racist actions, Law & Crime reported. Briarwood belongs to the larger Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which was established in the 1970s.
In the past, the PCA has been accused of segregating worshippers by race, and its members participating and defending white supremacist organizations in the state. The PCA apologized for these transgressions in 2016.
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