The Alabama State Senate approved a bill that would allow a local church to hire officers that would have the same power and duties as government-employed police officers. SB193, as it’s known, calls for the Briarwood Presbyterian Church to have the ability to “employ one or more persons to act as police officers to protect the safety and integrity of the church and its ministries.” The idea of a religious body hiring armed personnel with the backing of the government may seem, well, unusual in the United States, and the Twitterverse has responded. Some comments were cynical, while others didn’t quite understand what the bill meant. In both cases, it was pretty amusing.
One user accused the church of wanting to hide legal issues regarding alleged drug use at the church’s school.
— Jill T. (@iamcraftish) April 11, 2017
But Eric Johnston, a lawyer who drafted the bill on behalf of the church, told AL.com that a church police officer will have to report any and all crimes. “He would have to have the person arrested and turn it over to the local district attorney,” Johnston said. “If they keep it secret, they’re committing a crime.”
Another snarky user who thought that the bill applied to all churches, figured that if black churches started hiring their own cops, white lawmakers would change their tune.
— Eric Kleefeld (@EricKleefeld) April 11, 2017
While perhaps an interesting commentary on Alabama race relations, the tweet doesn’t recognize that the bill only applies to Briarwood Presbyterian Church.
Then there was this person, who was clearly under the impression that the bill lets church police make arrests according to Christian law, which is totally not what it says.
@RealAlexRubi All they need now is to make their own laws and their own judges and mete out their own punishment! Kind of like,SHARIA Law!
— JohnWilliams (@Trapsaplenty) April 12, 2017
In a similar vein, several users such as this one noted a striking similarity to a plot thread from “Game of Thrones.”
— Kristin (@KLDVComedy) April 11, 2017
But don’t worry. Before you think a religious militia is about to turn Birmingham into King’s Landing, note that the bill does specify that any church police officers “shall be restricted to the campuses and properties of Briarwood Presbyterian Church.” So it’s not like they can just take to the streets and arrest people in the name of the congregation.
The bill still has to pass through the Alabama House and then get Governor Kay Ivey‘s signature. If that happens, it wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented for a non-government body to have officers.
Church Administrator Matt Moore noted that there is already a state law that allows colleges and other private education institutions to hire police officers. Moore says that the proposed bill only seeks the same for the church.
[Image via screengrab]