Church-run Police Force? It May Happen at This Alabama Church and School

Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama is one step closer to getting its own police force to protect its church and affiliated school, Briarwood Christian School.  Apparently threatening children with hell doesn’t have quite the effect it used to. Now they need guys with guns.  And hiring security guards to protect the grounds, like every other large business does, isn’t quite Bible Belt-y enough.  Hee Haw.

On Wednesday, the Alabama State Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow the church to employ its own police force to protect its congregation of 4,000 members along with their school.  A House committee also approved the bill, and the next step would be to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Image credit: Briarwood LinkedIn page
Image credit: Briarwood LinkedIn page

I know what you’re thinking. That school looks straight-up dangerous!

The bill was drafted by attorney Eric Johnston, who believes it will pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor, Robert Bentley. And he has good reason to believe that.  The same bill passed last year but got to the governor too late to be signed.

The proposed legislation is modeled after similar laws that allow colleges to employ their own police forces, and since Briarwood is a rather large organization consisting of a church, seminary, and school, the administrators believe they’ll be successful in obtaining their own police.

Opponents of the bill say this opens the door for a biased police force to side with the church instead of the law.  Church administrator Matt Moore says that the bill was inspired by the Sandy Hook shooting (even thought it was over 4 years ago).  Some believe the bill is an effort to keep dirty laundry in-house — the Briarwood Christian School was involved in a drug bust in 2015 that was, according to, “shrouded in secrecy.”  The latter seems more likely than the former, considering the timing of the initial request for an internal police force.

The whole thing stinks.  First, we’re wading in some muddy waters here, with a church (or any partisan organization) being in charge of a police force.  What laws are they sworn to uphold?  The church’s laws? “God’s Law?” (Shit, I hope not.) The actual law? And who makes the decision of when the church police calls in the real police to aid in arrest or investigation? Church administrators? Oh hell no. I think we’re all well aware of the history involving the brass of religious organizations covering up their own misconduct.

If we’re really concerned about protection, law, and justice, then the only way to accomplish that is with impartiality.  A police force whose paychecks are signed by Briarwood would not only remove that impartiality, but also could introduce potential for unlawful directives to be carried out by the church’s mini-infantry.

This is a bad idea.


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Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

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25 thoughts on “Church-run Police Force? It May Happen at This Alabama Church and School

        1. But does it? I suspect this is one of those areas where the injunction against an establishment does not apply. The state would not be financing the police force, only authorizing it – as has been done with many campus police forces. Including, if I recall correctly, religiously affiliated college campuses.

          1. Fuck off you asshole. It’s harder for the government to make sure they to follow the law.

            (Hits block.)

          2. No, but in this case the Church is one part of a larger complex. And I think you’d find some of those college campuses included a chapel.

          3. No, it can’t. But recall that the Establishment clause doesn’t say that government cannot have anything to do with religion – only that it cannot support or advance one religion before another or show preference. If the state government is just treating this like any other application for a campus/specialist police force, they can just say they made no differentiation between religious and secular applicants. Which might even be so.

          4. but the Church Police Force only serves THAT specific church/ religion… also didn’t the Constitution/ Founding fathers banned priests/ pastors from serving in public office because of the conflict of interest… also aren’t churches not supposed to interfere in government & vice versa?
            Plus As employers the church will have undue influence of who & how & what laws are enforced (even if it’s by those they choose to hire & pay or detain/ arrest or let go)….
            ‘the Public’ cannot be served when the Police only serve/ work for the church

          5. Well, it can be argued that campus cops only serve their particular employers, which are often not the government. The purpose of the police force would be to enforce the rules and laws of the complex, not to serve the general public at all.

        1. Fuck you, newbie. I have serious doubts that it is a violation of the Establishment clause, as the state is not being asked to fund said police force, but only to authorize it. And as I noted elsewhere, there’s precedent.

          1. ANY law favoring religion is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

            No legislation is needed to hire security guards. They can do that instead.

          2. Which would be the preferable choice. Unfortunately, while the wording itself of the Constitution is clear, the caselaw complicates matters where no fiduciary relationship exists.

    1. I wouldn’t count on it. If it is modelled on campus police departments this group will most likely be a deputized subset of the county sheriff. It’s very easy to sit back and cry “unconstitutional!” whenever we disagree with something, but it doesn’t always hold up in real life. (See: civil rights movement)

      I don’t like it any more than you do (and that goes for campus police too, not just the proposed religious police), but we shouldn’t be naive and pretend that “wrong” and “illegal/unconstitutional” are the same thing. Our greatest constitutional strength is also our greatest weakness – that the law is whatever we choose to make it.

      1. Campus police departments are part of state universities, and as such, they are ALREADY part of the general police powers of the state.
        This does not extend to churches!!!

  1. If it does happen, perhaps they could hire Oklahoma State Sen. Ralph Shortey, after he loses his job in the legislature. He’s likely to lose it after being caught in a hotel room with a lad of tender years.

    This fine Christian man would be a bargain for the church police force. He already has six handguns and two rifles, and probably wouldn’t need so much training.


  2. These blasphemers are not True Christians. True Christians pray for God’s Holy Light to protect them. Their EternAl Souls will be consigned to the Fiery Pits of Gehenna as is foretold in 3 John 2:13.

  3. So are they police officers everywhere or just on church grounds? Can they fine anyone for violating laws? Who gets the money? Are only church members subject to them or would a guest also be a potential victim? Since they are referencing Sandy Hook I assume that they are going to be armed police, will they have to go through the same training/certifications or does the church do that?

  4. I wonder what they’re so afraid of that they don’t think the Lord and civil authorities will be enough to protect them. IMO, they sound more like cowards than Christians.

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