In what has to be the most bizarre spin-off effect of white supremacist Dylann Roof’s 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers, Alabama and Mississippi are making way for well-regulated church militias.
A jury found Roof guilty today on 33 charges including “obstruction of the practice of religion.” Fear of being “obstructed” this way has lawmakers in Montgomery and Jackson worried enough to pass legislation.
“I never dreamed in my lifetime that we’d have to worry about something like this,” says Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville), who has just proposed the Alabama Church Protection Act. Via The Decatur Daily:
Greer said the legislation — which would not require churches to do anything — is at the request of some in the Shoals and in response to violence in other parts of the country, including the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting last year that left nine dead. Greer called accused shooter Dylann Roof a “nut.”
Modeled on a law which Mississippi enacted earlier this year, the Alabama Church Protection Act would “establish a protection program by which designated members are authorized to carry firearms.”
As incentive to participate, the bill offers civil and criminal immunity “for any action taken by a member of the program if the action occurs during the course and scope of the member’s performance of his or her duties as a member of the program.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that bystanders injured during worship would not be able to sue or press charges if the shooter has a concealed carry permit and completes an instructional course to be offered by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.
Standards are needed, Greer says, because there are already armed people standing watch in Alabama churches. Reporter Mary Sell talked to one house of worship that has already up-armed itself.
Eddy Garner, director of the Colbert Lauderdale Baptist Association, said that in light of events nationwide, churches in the area have trained members who are “on alert.” Garner said the goal is not to scare people, but protect them.
“A number of our churches here in our association have security teams in place,” Garner said. “Our local police departments have been very helpful and supportive in training our people.
For those of you keeping score, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church lobby in 2009, but there have been no new laws passed as a result. Shooters also killed two people at a Unitarian church in 2008 and murdered six people at a Sikh temple in 2012, but there was no responsive legislation.
In fact, according to the Center for Homicide Research, which keeps an actual database of news about church shootings, there were 139 such incidents from 1980 to 2005 that killed 185 people. Most had little to do with race or religion or politics; domestic violence has been the most common motive.
So what makes Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black churchgoers so different from all of those other shootings? Why are white, southern male politicians so interested in passing new laws all of a sudden?
And most importantly, how long do we have until the security team at the Muscle Shoals megachurch has their own arsenal? Is it before or after Alabama and Mississippi form the Republic of Gilead?
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