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Church security concerns spawn a niche protection industry

ICC Note: This article, while not directly about an incident of persecution, reveals the fear of persecution that is growing among churches even in the United States.

By Tim Townsend
12/28/08 United States (PANTAGRAPH.COM) – A gunman bursts into a church sanctuary and opens fire on hundreds of worshipers. Vandals target a house of worship, spray-painting its walls or defacing its artifacts. A father who lost custody of his child finds a way to enter the church nursery to kidnap a toddler.

They may be rare occurrences, but for many Americans who previously thought of Sunday as a day of rest from the world’s evils, such scenarios represent worrisome, and increasingly realistic, threats to their spiritual ritual.

In response to increased interest from church leaders, a cottage industry of law enforcement officers has formed to help church bodies protect themselves.

Some of them are also suggesting to church leaders that they use the opportunity to reach out to potential new members to evangelize to off-duty officers the churches hire for security.

Last week, Windsor Crossing Community Church in Chesterfield sent four of its employees, including two Chesterfield police officers who work security for the church on weekends, to Kansas City for a training seminar taught by former Special Weapons and Tactics officers on “church security and intruder response.”

The nondenominational evangelical church, with 4,300 attendees over five services each weekend, is one of the busiest houses of worship in the St. Louis area. And at 54,000 square feet, the church, in the middle of a massive field next to the Spirit of St. Louis airport, is also one of the largest.

The combination of its size, open floor plan and constant bustle makes the church susceptible to trespassers.

While the FBI does not keep statistics on church violence, safety consultants and insurance agencies say a rash of incidents in recent years has forced churches to confront the possibility of an attack.

Churches are targeted because “they are open to anyone and typically they have limited security,” said Scott Krebill, founder of Emergency Planning Services in Parma, Mich., which designs emergency response procedures for churches. “People are easy targets when they’re at church because they are in a vulnerable position.”

Mitzi Thomas of Brotherhood Mutual in Fort Wayne, Ind., which insures churches, said her agency used to focus more on financial security but “the range of issues churches face today has changed dramatically.”

“Churches are much, much, much more aware today than they were two years ago, and especially five years ago, about the possibility of violence.”

Security as business

A Missouri company, Strategos International, offered its first course for churches last week in Kansas City. Vaughn Baker, president of Strategos and a former Lee’s Summit police officer and SWAT team member, led a daylong seminar for about 40 people from mostly evangelical churches, a third of whom were law-enforcement church consultants.

Baker is a member of Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit and helped design his church’s security plan. At the seminar, Baker stressed that Strategos’ guiding biblical principal comes from a verse in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus tells his apostles about coming persecutions.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves,” Jesus says, “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

After a short prayer, Baker who also teaches a course called “Active Shooter First Responder Tactical Training” to police departments nationwide and as far away as Pakistan and El Salvador ran down a list of church attacks in the last two years: Covington, Ky.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Suitland, Md.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Neosho, Mo.; Bates City, Mo.

Baker said Strategos’ seminars are open to synagogues and mosques as well.

He said most shootings, whether they happen in a school, business or church, end before, or as, police arrive at the scene. So “just sitting and waiting for the good guys to get there is not an option” for church leaders, he said… [Go To Full Story]