An alarming bill designed to allow a private church to operate its own police force is gaining momentum in Alabama. Please help us take action against this bill that recklessly undermines the fundamental purpose of public law enforcement.
House Bill 180 would authorize Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills, Ala., to independently employ full-time police officers "to protect the safety and integrity of the church and its ministries." When asked in committee to whom these officers would answer, a Briarwood representative responded that they would answer to the church.
If passed, this unprecedented bill would invite the creation of private police units run by any number of different religious groups, and other private entities, throughout the state.
HB 180 has been approved by the Alabama House's Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and now awaits a decision from the full House. Please call and email your state representative today to voice your opposition to this reckless bill.
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The bill is short on details and it is unclear what level of public accountability this church-run police unit would have. However, given that the church is not subject to records requests, this new police unit would certainly be less publicly accountable than regular state-run police departments.
"If the state Legislature chooses to open this door, it cannot be shut again," cautions FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover. "The state cannot discriminate between different religious sects or between religious and nonreligious groups. The proposed law offers no criteria for permitting Briarwood Presbyterian to possess its own police unit, which means that any private entity that is denied similar treatment from the statehouse would have grounds for a lawsuit."
If the church has ongoing security concerns, there's nothing preventing it from hiring private security. But instead of addressing its needs the same way that countless other private entities have done, Briarwood Presbyterian is asking the state for special treatment.