November 19, 2017
I’ve received some questions about policy and requests for guidance relating to security in our churches. Let me begin by saying that my heart breaks for the victims, families and communities affected by the various tragedies throughout our county. The violence perpetrated while faithful people gathered to worship or celebrate fellowship is nothing short of evil. It’s impossible to imagine the lasting effect of these traumatic events on the people. involved. As Christian’s we are called to respond with prayer and compassion.
Your church communities may be looking for ways to respond while seeking to assure the faithful of their safety. Given those concerns and questions I’ve included my statement from June of 2016 after the passage of HB786. This statement still represents our policy for the Episcopal Church in Mississippi.
In order to assist with parish concerns you may also visit the following links for information about “active shooter” protocol and training (http://main.mohstraining.com). The Mississippi Department of Homeland Security is offering the CRASE course (Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event) on multiple occasions in the immediate future. The Diocese of Mississippi is seeking ways to potentially bring this training to interested persons via several regional meetings.
I’m terribly sorry that this note was necessary and that this discussion needs to happen. Our faith in Jesus Christ calls us to sacrifice. Jesus chose the way of non-violence and, in fact, reprimanded Simon Peter who tried to defend him with a sword. Likewise, when he asked his friends to stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, was he calling for companionship and perhaps security while praying? This is a challenging topic, to say the least. As people of faith we offer our prayers for those affected by all forms of violence and for guidance as we move forward.
Peace be with you,
A statement regarding HB 786
from June 21, 2016
By The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage
Some of you have asked about my position on House Bill 786, entitled the “Church Protection Act” and known by some as the “Guns in Church” bill. I have reviewed the bill and discussed it with our Chancellor and Vice Chancellor.
You may recall that we discussed the “concealed carry” law at Clergy Conference a few years ago. At that time, Bishop Gray made it clear that a decision whether to post church facilities as “no guns allowed” would be local option. If your parish chose to prohibit guns on your premises that was a choice you were free to make. Likewise, you were free to allow someone to carry a firearm, within the constraints of the law.
HB 786 has been approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. It extends the “Castle Doctrine”, providing individuals who are authorized to function as members of a church security force immunity from liability in the event of an armed confrontation in the congregation. Please note, though, that congregations are not provided the same level of immunity. There are strict requirements of how a security force within a church is selected and trained. There must also be explicit records of such a team and policy being in place. It is not permission for anyone who so desires to function as an armed guard of the church.
The policy of local option will remain in place, but you should understand the local congregation and the diocese are not granted full immunity by this law. If you choose to utilize the law’s provisions, please be very diligent in following and documenting the various steps required by the law. I would also ask that you notify me, as Bishop, in the event your Vestry chooses to exercise this law’s provisions.
Please let me know if you have questions.
Peace be with you,