Security in the Sanctuary
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Aug 01, 2015
I wouldn’t consider myself an extremely religious
man, but I do go to church on a weekly basis, and
I do expect my presence in the church to be safe
and secure. That feeling was destroyed June 17 when
Dylann Storm Roof allegedly killed nine people in a
nonsensical act of violence.
This single violent act has, in some ways, changed
the course of history. For instance, many people are
calling for the Confederate Battle Flag to be retired,
including South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Probably
not a bad idea, but I doubt this alone was the cause
for an attack.
Roof is an avowed racist, and his actions have cut
the country deep to its core. No matter what race
you are, this stupid act was hurtful to 99.9 percent of
Americans. The Confederate flag has been a focus of
protests since the fatal shooting.
In a couple of other knee-jerk reactions, the White
House said that this horrifying event was because one
person was able to get his hands on a gun. The president
said, “We as a country will have to reckon with the
fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in
other advanced countries.” I guess the president forgot
about the recent attack in Paris at Charlie Hebdo headquarters,
where 12 people were recklessly killed.
On the other hand, the Second Amendment Organization
(2AO) is asking Americans to rise up and
protect our nation’s churches through responsible gun
training and ownership.
I have to say, this isn’t about responsible gun training
or ownership, nor is it about banning weapons from
this country. The 2nd Amendment still stands and is
a right Americans freely have. This isn’t about pulling
the trigger on security at Houses of Worship, though I
chatted with a few people about church security.
"We should be concerned about security in places
of worship,” said Allen Spears, president of Rugged
CCTV. “Two people came into our facility and another
person called—all pastors—wondering what they
could do to protect their church. All three said, ‘We’ve
gone long enough without security and it’s time we do
I have a hard time reconciling security in a worship
setting, and the June event isn’t the first time someone
has blended pure evil in church. In September 1999,
a very disturbed Larry Ashbrook, 47, walked into the
Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He
emptied three ammunition clips from a semi-automatic
handgun into a group of 150 teenagers singing
hymns. Seven people died; four teens and three adults.
Seven more were wounded. Ashbrook then went to
the back pew and took his own life.
“These people were Sunday school teachers, a favorite
soloist in the church, children’s choir director,
some youth who were active and some just beginning
to find God,” said Rev. Al Meredith, pastor at Wedgewood.
“Our hearts are broken.”
Apparently preaching the Gospel of Christ isn’t
enough security. It’s a tough question to answer because
of the openness and welcoming nature of any church.
“It is very difficult to restrict traffic in a public
building,” said Phil Lake, president of Knight Security.
“Assuming churches are public places and most
have no restriction as to visitors. We have a number
of churches we provide alarm systems and access and
video in certain areas but not in the main body of the
church. The alarms are set for after hours and, of
course, all the doors are open Sunday.
“It is very difficult to operate as usual and provide
even an elementary level of security,” Lake said.
The tragedy is our society has so many people with
an unbalanced psyche. And, the crazy part of most of
this is that there is no good reason to act in such manner.
There is no logical motive.
It would be so easy to put an access control system
here or there, and a camera here or there, but that’s
not enough. We’re not a nation that dictates how
and when a person can worship. There are no easy
answers, though faith and security at the front door
plays a major role.
As an integrator, please take the time to talk to
staff at your local churches. Help them, and arm them
with information about providing security in a house
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Security Today.