Defending Your Church from a Dangerous Person
Important reminders in the aftermath of a shooting at a Sikh temple.

A shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee this past Sunday morning reminds us that dangerous people can, and sometimes do, walk into places of worship in the U.S. Six people were killed and three injured after a suspect opened fire. This news comes less than a month after a movie-theater shooting left twelve dead and dozens injured in Colorado.

"I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul searching and examine additional ways we can reduce violence," President Obama said this week, according to CBS News.

It's difficult to imagine how to stop a gunman entering a church, but there is hope: A few months ago, churchgoers in South Carolina restrained a gunman during a Sunday service. The Huffington Postreports churchgoers watched through the church's windows as the 38-year-old assailant approached the building; half a dozen attenders responded when he burst through the doors, the website said.

A couple of churches in West Virginia have prepared for such a situation, according to 59News. Family Worship Center in Beckley has a security team of six people trained to be ready and ensure that specific doors are locked. "Once service starts, certain doors are locked, that way nobody can get in and out of those doors except for the main doors," senior pastor Ken Wright says. "And we have places that they are assigned and they watch over just to make sure there's no activity going on that shouldn't be." Another church, the Heart of God Ministries in Beckley, a church of around 400, trains greeters and ushers to watch for anything suspicious. Both churches have security cameras and allow their security on staff to carry guns if they wish.

Developing security teams, implementing specialized procedures, installing surveillance cameras and emergency buttons, limiting office access, and using thorough screening procedures can empower and enable churches to help keep staff and congregants safe.

For training on how to do this, see Dealing with Dangerous People, Protect Your Church from Crime & Violence, and Confronting Gun Violence at Church.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Paul Raybon

August 21, 2012  1:05pm

What would Jesus think of his followers arming themselves and locking the doors to His house? I'm not saying don't take precautions, but don't forget the theological implications of what you are doing.

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Original Anna

August 14, 2012  8:35pm

Our Church has the worship area with the old fashioned doors opening upon the backs of the worshipers. The new area has a back door always opened and the main side doors opening to the right of the new stairs entrance into the building. Now that I think of it, our Church has so many entrances to it always opened including the entrance to the children's classes wing and two door entrances to the kitchen area, all from outside that a nutjob could pick how many people he would want to kill according to his mood. Of course the two buildings were build in the 1800s and 1960s when shooting up churches wasn't considered because churches are sacred places. With the new secular/humanist attitude in the country churches are just another building with opportunity for random shooting.

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Brian Reed

August 14, 2012  5:01pm

The Huffington Post article on Jesse Gates (the South Carolina man who kicked in the doors and entered with a shotgun) is somewhat misleading: it did not mention that he was stopped by the pastor's grandson, who was legally carrying a concealed handgun and had to draw that handgun to force Mr Gates to relinquish the shotgun. The Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright praised the grandson's actions–without them, the situation could have been much worse. These details–absent from the Huffington Post article–can be found here:

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