Birmingham church may soon be allowed to have its own police force

Briarwood Presbyterian
Briarwood Presbyterian church in Birmginham, Ala. [Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons]

Alabama lawmakers are mulling over the idea of allowing a church to form its own police force.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a megachurch in Birmingham, is hoping to establish its own police department of fully deputized officers who would be armed and have the authority to make arrests in order to keep it growing congregation of over 4,000 people safe.

Last week, the Alabama Senate approved SB.193 by a vote of 24-4, which would allow just that. The state House is now considering an identical version of the bill that was sent to the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee in February.

Officers hired by the church would need to be certified by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and their law enforcement authority would be restricted to the church’s campuses and properties.

Previously, the state has allowed a few private universities the authority to have their own police force, but has yet to give church or non-school entity the same rights.

The Legislature passed the Briarwood bill during the 2016 legislative session, but former Gov. Robert Bentley failed to sign it into law.

If the bill becomes law under Gov. Kay Ivey, it will likely to face a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU-Alabama) who says it’s unconstitutional.