Alabama Megachurch Permitted to Have Its Own Police Force

ChurchLeaders | 6/24/2019 | Staff
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Thanks to legislation recently signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, one of the state’s largest churches now can set up its own police force. Birmingham’s Briarwood Presbyterian Church (BPC), which has more than 4,100 members plus a K-12 school and a seminary, has sought such permission for the past four years. The new law, which goes into effect this fall, faces challenges from critics who say it violates the separation of church and state and may allow cover-ups.

With a weekly average of 3,000 worshipers, BPC is one of Alabama’s three largest churches. About 2,000 students attend its two campuses—Briarwood Christian School and Briarwood Theological Seminary.

Press - Release - Church - Working - Relationship

According to a press release, the church “enjoys a wonderful working relationship” with local law enforcement agencies but needs more assistance and more consistency. “We’ve got over 30,000 events a year that take place at Briarwood, going on all day, all night,” says church attorney Eric Johnston. “We do hire off-duty cops and they do fill in here and there…but it’s inconsistent, it’s different people.” Two years ago, when he was trying to get the legislation signed, Johnston noted that “Briarwood is larger than most of the colleges that have police.”

The church says an existing state law (Alabama Code 16-22) “allows certain educational institutions to appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to keep off intruders and prevent trespass upon the institution property.” It adds, “The...
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