‘Culture wars’ increase church security risk

REPUBLIC – “Culture wars” broiling across the nation increase church security risks, said Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos International and member at Abundant Life Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit, in a recent interview with The Pathway. Missouri-based Strategos International has trained more than 7,500 law enforcement, military, church, school, security and business professionals since its establishment in 2002.

“We see increased risk to churches because of the topics that frequently come up, from abortion to same-sex marriage to the freedom of religion,” Baker said. “That is where you could have protestors involved, or disgruntled church members that disagree on what the Bible says about each of those topics. … We’re seeing more and more protests.”

In the state of California, for example, Baker advised churches on security issues that arose beginning in 2008 because of Proposition 8, which revolved around the issue of same-sex marriage. Protesters showed up at some churches, and other churches received packages of white powder in the mail.

Of course, the need for church security can arise for a wide variety of reasons, apart from “culture war,” he said.

“Church security involves a wide range of issues related to safety and security, as well as preventing disruptions and recognizing suspicious activities before it occurs,” he said. Although churches should take precautions to prevent casualties should an armed intruder enter their building, they must also consider a wide number of other issues. They should be prepared to respond to medical emergencies, to protesters, and to disgruntled members or visitors.

In one church, an elderly war veteran fell into the fetal position on the church floor and began to yell when he was startled during a drama. The church’s security team helped to remove him from the service and to counsel him.

Protestors planted themselves in another church, with one protestor after another crying out as their peers were peaceably removed from the building by the church’s security team.

Elsewhere, a disgruntled member began to argue with his pastor when he felt that the sermon was too political – and, of course, when he disagreed with his pastor’s political views.

And many churches, Baker said, have been approached by non-custodial parents who desire to see their children, and many others have faced conflicts caused by church members who disagree with one another.

Whatever situation should arise, churches must overcome denial and increase their awareness about church security, Baker said.