The president of the IRD doesn't think it's odd that the Alabama State Senate has voted to let a megachurch in Birmingham establish its own police force.
Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which houses more than 4,000 worshipers each week, also has a K-12 private school and a theological seminary, amounting to another 2,000 people on campus during the weekdays. The church even owns its own radio station.
With all this in mind, Briarwood feels the need to have its own police officers to keep all those people safe. That would be unprecedented in the U.S. according to police experts, but Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy, does not think it is a big deal.
"Obviously there are already many Christian colleges and universities and seminaries that have their own security and police forces, so this is just arguably an extension of an already existing situation," he submits.
Tooley, who worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency, does not feel like there should be any objections if the church feels the need to take this precaution.
"They're like any very large institution involving thousands of people," he says, "and so by definition, there are potential security concerns."
The Alabama State House will next debate a similar bill, and if it does become law, the constitutionality of the legislation could be challenged by the ACLU and other organizations.