After several years of seeking to establish a private police force to adequately protect its church and school campuses, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed legislation allowing the Briarwood Presbyterian Church to do just that despite objections from critics.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Ivey approved the legislation some two week ago.
In a statement on the approval,
Briarwood said that despite having a great relationship with local law
enforcement agencies, establishing a private police force had become
necessary because the state was unable to provide adequate security for
the approximately 2,000 students and faculty of Briarwood Christian
School located on two campuses in unincorporated Jefferson and Shelby
County due to budget cuts.
“Briarwood also recognizes the state
budgetary issues identified by the Emergency Task Force on School Safety
and Security which coupled with the demand for APOST certified
qualified first responders creates stress on our law enforcement
departments. This can and does lead to full-time staffing issues for
both campus locations,” the church said.
“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. The institutions
currently provided the protection under this statute include a number
that have less students than does Briarwood Christian School. We are
grateful to the governor and our elected officials for approving our
request to be added to the existing Alabama Code 16-22,” the church
The ACLU of Alabama argues,
however, that the move by Briarwood to establish its own police force
is a violation of the Establishment Clause that the church has been
pursuing since 2015.
“These attempts to undermine the separation
of church and state are a threat to our freedom of religion and a
violation of the Establishment Clause. For that reason, we will continue
to fight any plans to create a state-sanctioned, church-operated police
force,” the organization said in 2017.