Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed legislation clearing the way for Briarwood Presbyterian Church and its affiliated school, as well as a private academy in Madison County, to establish their own police forces.
The law passed during the most recent legislative session permits the church, Briarwood Presbyterian School and Madison Academy in North Alabama to hire police officers who are able to make arrests if crimes are committed on their properties.
The church and schools “may appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to keep off intruders and prevent trespass upon and damage to the property…These persons shall be charged with all the duties and invested with all the powers of police officers, including the power of arrest for unlawful acts committed on the property,” the law states.
The officers will have to complete state certified training by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and be trained on the proper use of a non-lethal weapon.
Briarwood Presbyterian had been pushing for police powers for several years, citing security concerns at its church and schools off Acton Road at Interstate 459 and Briarwood Christian School on Cahaba Valley Road. The school has about 2,000 students and faculty at its two facilities in Jefferson and Shelby counties.
Madison Academy has about 850 students at its campus in Madison. It is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.
Randall Marshall, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, says the law could allow the church to cover-up criminal activity that occurs on its campuses. He expects the law to be challenged in the courts for unconstitutionally granting government power to a religious institution.
The new policy goes into effect this fall.
The first amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Granting arrest powers to a church is an obvious violation of the first amendment.