The separation of church and state has been an important part of the First Amendment since it’s creation, stating that no laws from the federal government can dictate control or rules over religion in our country. It has allowed religious freedoms in our country to exist (to the extent that they have been allowed by the people to be), and yet in Birmingham, Alabama we find that their people forget this important distinction as a mega-church has been allowed to form its very own police force by right of bill.
The Briarwood Presbyterian Church is not the first private group in the state to ask for police, and in fact a number of private universities were given “the authority to have a police force”, and in most colleges across the country there are law enforcement groups focused there. But for the first time in United States, history, a church will have it’s very own police force, one which they will pay for themselves. This is a big deal, because the breaking of the barriers between the two open up for more problematic issues in the future, not just in Alabama but for the United States as a whole.
Now, the reasoning by the church might make sense, as they wish to “keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe”. However, many argue that this is the beginning of more severe political corruption within the area, as the police could be used to cover up any criminal activities performed by churchgoers, and threaten the sanctity of the community. The fact that the mega-church exists, much less is working to earn itself a police force, is disconcerting to the fragile state this country is when it comes to any form of religious anything. This bill has the support of Senate Majority Leader J.T. Waggoner, a Republican with strong, influential ties to the area that could get this passed. It is also not the only religious-related bill coming into question.
A bill named The Alabama Church Protection Act will “allow churches to enlist armed congregants for security”, as well as will give any legal assistance required for those who indeed shoot others. This kind of church-political unity is a worrying development in the nation, especially in an area known for being a part of the “Bible Belt” of the United States, and thus religious extremism is commonplace. This is not the first.
In North Carolina, religious conservatives have fought long and hard to pass the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act”, which goes against the 2015 Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage and instead fights to once again make it illegal in the state. Two years after the ruling, those in power state it “null and void in the State of North Carolina”, going against the longstanding “supremacy clause” in the United States Constitution that states the Constitution the highest law in the land, and the rulings of the Supreme Court are the same. Though the bill will not even survive entry into the state’s House of Representatives, the fact that it is even attempted in the first place shows the lengths that those of religious fervor will go to control and manipulate law and politics in their favor. Going back to my earlier statement, the religious freedoms of this country are allowed or regulate by the people, and unfortunately that means one religion is truly ruling out.
Not only are these examples of religious manipulations of politics, it is also examples of attempts towards “religious policing”, a term generally used to describe countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran, on American soil. Those same people who spew hatred and disgust against those of Islamic faith are actually trying to bring the same forms of government and policing from other countries to ours, the “Land of the Free”. It shows that though we may claim to be a religiously tolerant country, we are in fact one of deeply Christian roots that leaves no room for other religions or views to truly bloom. Whether that comes in gay marriage (which is allowed by federal law throughout the United States; cannot fight it) or allowing churches to own their own police forces, these cases show that there are people out there who wish to push for religious policing, a corruption of the long-sought separation between the two great powers, church and state, that truly rule this nation. If there is any religious policing in our nation, it should be focused on keeping those two things separate, as was intended from the beginning. We cannot allow for it to grow, or risk greater problems to spread across the U.S.