(TMU) — The separation of church and state in the United States has taken yet another blow—this time in Alabama. Republican Governor Kay Ivey has signed legislation allowing a Presbyterian Church to perform state-like functions by establishing its own police force for its churches and schools.
The law, which was approved during the most recent legislative session, permits the Birmingham-based Briarwood Presbyterian Church to establish a private law enforcement agency that would have the power to make arrests if crimes are committed on church grounds or on its private school campuses, according to the Associated Press.
Officials at the church claim that such a private police force is needed to secure the church and the 2,000 students and faculty on the two private school campuses it owns and operates.
The law, which is set to come into effect this fall, allows the church to deploy the private law enforcement agency in the two counties where the church has such facilities, and grants their police the powers typically restricted to public police agencies.
Critics have argued that the measure flies in the face of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government to establish an official religion, by granting government powers to a religious institution.
Critics also argue that the law is unnecessary, given that the mega-church currently operates its own private security force.
Attorney Ken Riley believes that other mega-churches in the state are likely to follow suit. He told WBRC:
“I think that other congregations and academies could be on the fast track … They would at least have the precedent of Briarwood and Madison Academy being able to join the ranks of small colleges and universities.”
The church, which belongs to the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination and is firmly ensconced in the Bible Belt, is no stranger to racism. Its parent body, the PCA, broke from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in 1973 due to what it called “liberal theology.” It turns out the PCA’s schism from the more mainstream PCUS was due to the former’s decision to allow black and white parishioners to worship together.
As black news site the Root notes, the church and its clergy have been notorious for touting bigoted messages, including condemnations of Disney for “promoting homosexuality” and pastors who lead outright white supremacist events such as celebrations of the slave-holding Southern Confederacy that lost the Civil War.
The Root explained:
“Since its founding, Briarwood has been notorious for continuing to root for everyone straight, white and male. Not only does it not allow women to have leadership roles as ministers or deacons, but the church’s history is also rife with racism and homophobia.”
According to a statement made to WBRC by the Birmingham-based church, the law “allows certain educational institutions to appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to keep off intruders and prevent trespass upon the institution property.”
The statement concluded:
“We are grateful to the governor and our elected officials for approving our request to be added to the existing Alabama [law].”
Randall Marshall, the executive director of the Alabama Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), believes that the law also gives the church an ability to not report criminal activity that occurs on its property. He believes that the law will face significant challenges in court.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.