Florida Church Protection Act
Summary: With violence against the church on the rise, more churches are creating safety or security teams within the church or arming there members however some churches are not because of liability concerns. Although Florida has gun laws that protect citizens via Stand Your Ground, it does not cover Houses of Worship. If a church were to have an active shooter incident and a church volunteer engaged the shooter to stop the threat, the member of the church is covered with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. However, the church itself is not covered. This creates great concern for churches on whether to establish a safety team or address the current threats against the church. Pastors know that the church will be liable which in most cases a lawsuit against the church will cause the church to close its doors.
In reviewing the case against George Zimmerman, he was found not guilty because of the current Stand Your Ground legislation. The Homeowners Association that allowed him to volunteer for the neighborhood watch program was sued and wound up settling out of court. They were not protected by current Stand Your Ground legislation. The same concerns are raised in the church. They are afraid to defend themselves because of liabilities. Churches can be sued whether they have a active shooter plan in place within the church or not. What happened in Sutherland Springs is tragic and a wake-up call to the church. Churches must be able to establish an armed safety team made up of volunteers with the right training to protect those that come to worship without fear of the church being sued in the event of an incident.
- The church must establish a safety team leader preferable with a law enforcement or military background that will follow their church’s mission statement in expanding the kingdom of God.
- Armed safety team leaders and members that are volunteers by the church must conceal carry and have a current concealed weapons permit.
- A set Emergency Action Plan must be in place as agreed to by the leadership of the church.
- Annual training sessions must take place with all safety team members, staff, volunteers of the church to ensure everyone is aware of their role in the Emergency Action Plan (EAP). This training should be with local law enforcement on the church will be doing before law enforcement arrives on scene of an active shooter.
- At least one additional training session or possibly quarterly training sessions should be conducted to look at best practices and potential community threats. These meetings should include local law enforcement agencies.
- Training records should be kept up to date and filed in the event of an incident in the church to show that all requirements are met to best protect the church for a lawsuit in the event of an active shooter incident.
- Training records could be used by commercial insurance companies to offer a discount on insurance to offset training costs, so every church can afford training and lower liability risks by having an Emergency Action Plan in place with solid training to reduce loss of life in the event of an active shooter scenario.
Discussions needs to happen among church leadership and legislators to truly implement a law that would minimize casualties and liabilities to the church. These are just a few suggestions in order to have a commonsense approach in churches dealing with the rise in violence against the church – whether it be a domestic issue bleeding into the church or a hate crime or a terrorist attack.
Please sign if you agree that churches should be protected against a lawsuit in the event of an incident and the church has a safety team member address the threat.