Potential for Violence Directed at Religious Institutions in Wake of Supreme Court Decision
In light of the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the legal decision of Roe vs. Wade there is potential for considerable backlash by proponents of abortion. Christianity and other religions have backed the sanctity of life view and that abortion is murder. There are some in the pro-abortion community that see preventing them from killing their young as a form of oppression. Therefore, because of the ties between religion and its opposition to murder there are some extremist pro-abortionists that may desire to strike at religious institutions directly. Additionally, there may be civil unrest in which religious sites and their congregations may be caught in.
· Conduct a risk assessment to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that your sanctuary and your congregation whether in-service or out-of-service may be at risk by extremists that might act in a violent or disruptive manner following the Supreme Court decision.
· Share information with local churches concerning any threats you may receive. Strengthen the community by sharing so all are aware. Consider assembling a local meeting of religious representatives from the community to discuss potential risk and methods for mitigating possible criminal acts. Consider a joint risk assessment.
· Be especially attuned to newcomers at this time. People may attempt to enter the religious site first as any other congregant before initiating their disruptive tactic. While it is not recommended to be confrontational or act in any way un-Christian like be more watchful. If you do not have very engaging greeters consider having them be a little more engaging so you can assess attitudes.
· If you believe there is risk to your congregants at this time consider sending out a security bulletin to remind your fellow worshippers that they may be targeted.
· Contact your local fusion center to ask if there have been any indications of activity in your area. They may be typing up a bulletin for distribution but a phone call or an email can get you an answer quicker.
· Consider increasing your normal security precautions temporarily if you believe there is moderate or higher risk of an incident occurring in the near future due to the situation. This may be such as reducing number of open accesses or reducing the size of the area available for parking in the lot to a smaller size more easily patrolled or managed by security.
· If your facility uses a contract security service recognize there may be hiccups in operations. Mobile patrols may be unable to reach your site due to impediments along the roadways. They may be tied up with emergencies at other sites resulting from the unrest. If you have static guards that usually monitor from the parking lot consider moving them inside the building for safety or telling them to be prepared to make a report to appropriate emergency services and leave if protesters or rioters come onto church grounds. There is not really too much a single or even a couple of guards can do against a mob unless they have some serious less than lethal equipment such as the fire extinguisher sized OC sprays and pepper ball guns. Remember that violence begets violence and it may only amplify the situation. Additionally, that brings liability upon your church. It’s a very bad situation that your insurance company will thank you for not partaking in.
· Monitor the situation throughout the week via news and social media services. Advise the church leadership if it appears that there is risk to the congregation and/or the facility they might find unacceptably high. Even if services are cancelled you may need to send safety team members to the church to intercept and let anyone who didn’t get the message know that the services are cancelled.
· Monitor these news sources during services. If something starts coming your way be ready to speak with leadership about ending service early and sending people home before the protest or riot reaches the facility. Also be ready to enact a lockout procedure if needed and be ready to keep the congregation inside for a long time. You may need to stock up on some snacks and drinks for people just in case.
· Take inventory of your medical supplies and fire suppression equipment.
· Ensure that your doors lock and your alarms work.
· Review safety plans to ensure that they are updated. Have all members of the safety/security team read over them to familiarize themselves again.
· Recognize that civil unrest often prevents civil authorities from responding in a timely manner if not at all. Speak with your team and let them know they may have to maintain incident command for a much longer period of time than normal. You may be the firefighters and the medics. Ask yourself is your team ready for that? Can they handle that? Do they have the equipment and the training?
· It’s understandable that a religious security team does not want to present a militant image by having overt body armor and other equipment. But consider having your team arrive before services with any such gear and storing that in the security team office or other available storage area in case it needs to be handed out later. Better to have and not need than need and not have.
· Understand that if your building catches on fire and if you can’t fight it you may have to evacuate into an outside that is not safe as it may be controlled by an unruly mob. Maybe it’s time to go buy another handful of fire extinguishers and have some hoses hooked up. We want to escape if we can but we certainly do not want to from the frying pan into the fire.
· Consider increasing the size of your team for services. Some security teams do rotations. It might be time to stand up a larger portion of the team at one time or the entire team.
· Security members may wish to consider driving to service separate from their family. They may need to stay to provide security services while their family and other congregants leave.
· Consider temporarily contracting security services if needed. You can hire a security service or in some cities contract with the police department for services.
Ladies and gentlemen, we hope that all the risk assessments over-estimated the risk and that these precautions are all unnecessary. However, we recommend you take as many as you feel applicable to you and your facilities. Lastly, we’ll ask that you pray for everyone’s safety and for our country. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.