Alabama Senate Bill 193 would have authorized the formation of a Briarwood Church police force – police officers with full state authority answerable only to the Church. It passed the Senate in April and was expected to pass the House; however, it never reached the floor for a vote. As a result, the bill died this legislative session, but the support behind it remains, and the ACLU of Alabama expects to see something like it again.
After all, it’s not the first time a bill for a Briarwood Church police force has made its way through the statehouse. In 2015, a similar bill passed both House and Senate but was never signed by then Governor Bentley. 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.
As acting executive director Randall Marshall noted, “If the legislature and governor pursue this unwise course of action, a legal challenge is inevitable.” That was true this year with SB 193, and it will be true next year if they continue to move forward in these efforts.