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Attacks Force Churches to Boost Security

Brady Boyd, senior pastor of the New Life Church, talks with unidentified people after a news conference outside the facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday, Dec. 10, 2007. Two women died from a shooting at the church, which was one of two church shootings in Colorado on Sunday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Brady Boyd, senior pastor of the New Life Church, talks with unidentified people after a news conference outside the facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday, Dec. 10, 2007. Two women died from a shooting at the church, which was one of two church shootings in Colorado on Sunday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski - AP)

"Not only do we have military and ex-military all over, we have this sort of frontier mentality. People around here are serious about protecting their own."

Haggard was fired last year after a male prostitute alleged a relationship with him.

His successor, Brady Boyd, said Monday that his security chief recommended heightened security early Sunday after a shooting in a Denver suburb at a missionary training center dormitory. Boyd agreed.

Assam, the security guard, had attended the church's early worship service at 9 a.m., then stood watch in the rotunda of as the second service was letting out.

There, she confronted the gunman, identified as 24-year-old Matthew Murray. Murray managed to two kill two sisters and wound their father and two others before he was killed. At a news conference Monday, Assam said that she prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide her, and that her hands never shook.

"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," Assam said.

Speaking of the church's security plan, Boyd said: "That's the reality of our world." He stressed that all armed guards are licensed and screened.

On Sept. 15, 1999, a deranged man burst into a Wednesday night teen prayer rally at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, killing four teenagers and three adults.

The pastor, the Rev. Al Meredith, didn't heed calls afterward to post armed guards at the church.

"There just isn't enough money in the kingdom to hire off-duty police officers to stand guard at every door of every church," he said. He added that he didn't want to turn people away: "I want the church to be a welcome place for sinners."

American Jews have long stressed the need to safeguard their community organizations, schools and synagogues. Many groups formed security committees.

"There have been security concerns generally for many years, but they have certainly been heightened since 9/11," said Nathan Diament, public policy director for the Orthodox Union, which represents Orthodox synagogues in North America.

The Homeland Security Department created a grant program of nearly $50 million to improve security for religious and secular nonprofits considered at risk of terrorist attack.

Several groups have received individual grants, according to Homeland Security officials.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also distributes a detailed security checklist, urging groups to build relations with local law enforcement and elected officials, report suspicious activity and hold community meetings to raise awareness of potential threats.

The Fellowship of the Woodlands megachurch in Texas employs a former FBI agent as a full-time security director, overseeing volunteers and paid staff, said pastor Kerry Shook. Those who are armed in the congregation are police officers, he said.

"It's something you just have to do today," said Shook, whose congregation draws 15,600 people per weekend. "We want everyone to feel safe. At the same time, we want to be open and accepting of everyone. An incident like this one in Colorado Springs just reinforces what the church is _ we have to be a light in a dark world."

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AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report from New York.


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