A megachurch in Alabama is planning to create its own police force after the passage of a law allowing it to, CNN reported Friday.
The law, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey (R), authorizes Briarwood Presbyterian Church to “appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to protect the property of the school or academy.”
A similar bill reportedly was considered four years ago, but was dropped amid public outcry over the church’s racist history and concerns that it violated the Establishment Clause’s separation of church and state.
Briarwood’s members are primarily white, according to CNN. The nearby city of Birmingham is two-thirds black.
The church is part of PCA, a conservative denomination that originated early 1970s Alabama. In 2016 it apologized for “racial sins” that included “the segregation of worshipers by race” as well as “the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations.”
Officials at the church say that a police force is necessary in order to adequately protect its 4,100 members, per CNN.
The ACLU of Alabama tweeted that the new law undermines the separation of church and state are is “a threat to our freedom of religion and a violation of the Establishment Clause.”
“We expect this law to be challenged in the courts,” it said.
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. We expect this law to be challenged in the courts. #alpolitics https://t.co/JaLA0Uhqwr
— ACLU of Alabama (@ACLUAlabama) June 21, 2019
The new law is expected to go into effect in the fall, according to CNN.