GOP governor lets racist megachurch in Alabama have its own police force

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Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama has a history of racism and homophobia and will soon have its own private police force.

The Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which has a long history of racism and homophobia, will now be allowed to have its own police force thanks to a bill Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law on Wednesday.

The church, which serves 8,000 people a day, can already hire off-duty police officers to assist with security, but that wasn't enough for them. The new law allows for a full-fledged police force that will report to church authorities and be fully empowered to make arrests if crimes are committed on church property.

As the bill was being debated in the Alabama legislature, the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed grave concerns about it.

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"It's a problem because it violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Randall Marshall, executive director of the Alabama ACLU, told CBS News. "It establishes a singular religion that is favored above all others in the state of Alabama and it gives them the authority of state government."

Marshall told the Associated Press they expected to challenge it in court and worries that the private police force could help cover up crimes committed on church property.

Briarwood has just over 4,000 members, as well as roughly 2,000 students and faculty on two private school campuses. It also has a long history of sexism, racism, and homophobia.

The church does not allow women to serve in leadership roles such as deacons or bishops, according to the Root. In addition, the church broke away from mainstream Presbyterian churches in the 1970s over the issue of allowing black and white parishioners to worship together. Briarwood opposed the integration, and their pastor, Harry Reeder, has close ties to pro-Confederate groups.

The Root also reports that the church is strongly against the rights of LGBTQ individuals and believes Christians should persuade people that "homosexuality is against the word of God."

At the same time Alabama is expanding the ability of sexist, racist churches to have police forces, the state is hard at work restricting the rights of women across the state.

In May, Alabama passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation, effectively outlawing the health care procedure in the state. The draconian law would even force rape and incest survivors to carry their pregnancy to term, threatening doctors who perform abortions with 99 years in prison.

Republicans in Alabama want to give special rights to racist churches while restricting the rights of women across the state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.