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Bill to extend stand-your-ground laws to churches passes House

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the Church defense bill, House Bill 34 last Thursday.

HB34, sponsored by State Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, gives churches a certain degree of civil immunity if a church attendee is forced to defend himself in church.

“You got nuts everywhere just like you had in the high school in Florida yesterday,” Greer said, referring to a 19-year-old who killed 17 at a Florida High School last week. “Occasionally, they show up in a church.”

The bill applies stand your ground principles to church. A person who uses force is presumed justified if they have a reasonable belief that someone is about to seriously harm them or a fellow church member.

Greer said that the large churches can afford to hire professional security teams and off-duty police officers, while small churches are unable to hire professional security forces.

A church in Texas was recently attacked by a gunman during its worship services, which provided the impetus for the bill.

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Democrats objected to the bill, claiming that Alabama already has such a broad stand your ground law in place that the bill accomplishes nothing. Some Republicans also questioned the need for the bill.

State Representative Christopher John England, D-Tuscaloosa, accused Republicans of pandering to gun owners.

Some Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to insert more guns in churches and said that this sort of legislation only encourages more shootings and more uses of guns in disputes.

The legislation was opposed by Mothers Against Gun Violence, who have had a very visible presence in the 2018 legislative session thus far.

The bill passed late in the evening due to lengthy filibusters by Democrats who are angry because Republicans hold a majority of the seats in Jefferson County; even though three of those legislators: Arnold Mooney from Indian Springs, Tim Wadsworth from Arley and Kyle South from Fayette do not live in Jefferson County, and most of the residents in their districts are not Jefferson County residents.

Democrats said that this was done for political reasons. The 2012 redistricting plan was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, even though that plan had received pre-clearance from Eric Holder’s U.S. Justice Department, necessitating a redrawing of the map in 2017. That plan has been approved by the courts.

In 2022, there will be a new redistricting based on the 2020 Census.

The Houses of Representatives passed the bill 40-16.

State Representative Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, said, “Finally we passed HB 34 which provides immunity for individuals regarding the use of deadly force at church for self defense or the defense of others.”

Many legislators had already left the building before the marathon session ended. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.

Original reporting by the Associated Press’s Kim Chandler contributed to this report.

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