by Lauren Walsh, WBMA Staff
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBMA) – A proposed new law aims to help protect places of worship in Alabama.
One state lawmaker says he’s preparing a bill to allow the use of deadly force in church for self- defense and the defense of others.
Rep. Lynn Greer (R- Rogersville) tells ABC 33/40 he expects this year’s bill to be similar to the one he filed the past two years. But he says this year he’s been working with the District Attorneys Association and the Attorney General’s Office to improve it.
Greer expects the bill to allow a person to use deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another if that force is used against an aggressor committing or attempting to commit a crime involving death, serious physical injury, robbery in the first degree, or kidnapping in the first degree on the premises of a church.
He says it would also include the premises of a church within the state’s stand your ground law.
Greer expects his bill to include training from sheriff’s offices for church security members, and that it would provide immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for a person using such deadly force.
Pastor Darryl Warren believes that bill could help, as he works on security for New Saint James Baptist Church in Birmingham.
“In church, it’s disheartening to know one day we may even need metal detectors in church, but this is where we’ve gotten and it’s disheartening to know someone would come into the church and do harm in God’s house but we live in a fallen world,” said Warren.
He has a eight person security team and nine cameras installed, monitoring inside and outside.
“A third phase might even be hired security if it comes to that and then having the sheriff’s department to come in and do some training as well,” he said. “So, we want to cover all the bases we can and make the members feel as secure as they can while they’re worshiping.”
Defense attorney Ben Preston believes the law already covers the church.
“I feel you have the right to defend yourself in certain situations no matter where you’re at,” he told us.
But says adding specific language could strengthen that.
He does have concerns about what the immunity would include and who would determine who and what qualifies.
“If they’re just going to give blanket immunity, it sounds like they would never be charged period,” he said. “Which would, then they’re not being charged, they’re not bonding out, they’re not having to wait for the stand your ground hearing, waiting for the judge to decide if they’re going to prosecute.”
Preston notes that we are still waiting for the bill to be released to read the exact language and learn what will be included in the immunity section.
Pastor Warren says immunity may offer assurance to his security team.
“That they are not going to be held liable for carrying out the act of defending someone in church,” he said. “So, if you have legislation to take care of that, it kind of removes the sense of- I’m worrying about if I do this, what’s going to happen to me.”
Greer got his bill through the House in 2018, but it died in the Senate.
If his bill does make it through the House in 2020, Senator Arthur Orr (R- Decatur) tells ABC 33/40 he plans to sponsor it in the Senate.
“We should help places of worship protect themselves,” Orr told ABC 33/40.
He says the state doesn’t need to encourage reckless behavior, but that he’s looking at what could be done to still add a layer of protection.
Orr added that he’s looking at what other states have passed, including Texas.