It’s Bring Your Gun to Church Day

Guns in the Pews: Christian Security Network at Your Service

On February 11, Fox News reported that the Arkansas House of Representatives had “approved a bill allowing concealed handguns in churches, despite hearing arguments that lawmakers should put their faith in God, not guns.” The bill, which easily passed in the House and is headed to the Senate, “removes churches and other houses of worship from the list of places where concealed handguns are banned,” leaving only bars as “private entities where concealed weapons are banned.”

Five days later, Jim Adkisson pled guilty to last year’s shooting rampage inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that killed two parishioners and wounded a half dozen others. In the coming years, other state legislatures will no doubt debate the wisdom of allowing churchgoers to carry weapons inside of churches. In the meantime, Jeff Hawkins, a former chief security officer for a worldwide Christian ministry, has founded the Christian Security Network (CSN), as a response to burgeoning violence against Christian churches, schools, ministries and missionaries. “Christian organizations still struggle with concept of security and how it applies, if at all, to their institution and the Christian community as a whole.”

On their Web site, the Christian Security Network says that it’s “a national organization dedicated to the advancement of security, safety, and emergency planning”:

We address everyday risks such as lawsuits and liability, medical emergencies, crime, disasters like fire and destructive weather, violent situations, “active shooters,” and lost or abducted children; further we believe that by being proactive, the Christian community as a whole can minimize these risks. We are not “alarmists.” We do not believe in a “knee-jerk” reaction to things that happen in our world by taking unrealistic and sometimes dangerous and liable measures. However, we are “realists.”

The Christian community is at risk from all these things and as a whole is behind the curve compared to the secular world in terms of security and emergency preparedness. These situations will occur in the Christian church, in the Christian school, at the Christian ministry, and against Christian missionaries.

Jim Hamilton, a senior writer for Neighbor Newspapers, recently pointed out that there have been 20 people killed in church shootings in the past two years, and the Christian Security Network claims that it “has tracked over 100 criminal incidents in over 25 states against churches.”

I asked Jeff Hawkins the following questions, in a series of emails:

How is business since your January launch?

Jeffrey Hawkins: Our business is building awareness, and providing training and education of the overall security for the Christian community; there is great interest and much work to be done in this area. Response to our mission, resources, and services thus far has been great.

Will the Christian Security Network serve the security interests of religious entities other than Christian churches—for example, mosques or synagogues?

JH: There are other organizations that already service the security and emergency planning needs for other religions; the Christian Security Network is in contact with several of them to share information and resources, as well as serving on organizations such as the State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council and ASIS International, which address security for all religions.

Are there established statistics showing increased multiple-victim shootings at Christian churches as opposed to other public venues?

JH: Unfortunately, [there aren’t]… even the FBI’s statistics do not accurately track all shootings because in order for it to be put in a religious category, the incident has to be classified as a ‘hate crime,’ not just a shooting. Otherwise it just gets lumped together with all violent crimes. However, given what I have followed over the last 20 years, there are about as many shootings in religious venues as other public venues. Workplace shootings still outpace all others.

Do you support legislation—similar to the bill that is winding its way through the Arkansas legislature—that would allow churchgoers to carry concealed weapons into their churches?

JH: The Christian Security Network has never taken a stand endorsing or condemning churches that allow weapons as a means of protection. We totally support people’s second amendment rights and respect our constitution and that freedom. We trust that legislation in any state would address training of weapon use in a public environment, be it a church, amusement park, or shopping mall.

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Crossing Paths: Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. Sun Myung Moon

While many people no doubt believe that the operations of Rev. Sun Myung Moon are so last century, there is every indication to believe that Moon’s political influence will last well into the future. Now celebrating his 90th birthday, Moon* has designated his son, the Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, to carry on his work. In addition to owning a number of media outlets including the reliably conservative Washington Times, the Moon family runs one of the biggest sushi-providing enterprises in the world. Moon has also put his stamp on a bevy of political organizations that court—and receive—support from a number of world leaders and US political figures.

On January 20, as the inaugural festivities wound down, it was left to the Rev. Joseph C. Lowery, a true hero of the civil and human rights movements, to close out the ceremonies with a benediction. And he didn’t disappoint. With his well-worn voice, Lowery brought the poetry, prose and hardscrabble reality of a life spent in the struggle for human rights into the living rooms of America.

Eleven days later, Lowery was present at another gathering, this one in New York City. The occasion was the 90th birthday bash for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon where Lowery was one of some 3,000 religious, diplomatic, and community leaders gathered at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan to celebrate. According to PRNewswire, after the celebration Lowery said that he “was honored to congratulate Rev. Moon on his 90th Birthday and want to recognize the effectiveness of his ministry and his work for peace. Particularly of interest to me was that he was passing the torch to his youngest son to carry on the ministry.”

Among the many businesses that the Moon family operates, none has played a more significant role in the growing of the modern-day conservative movement than the Washington Times. It is fair to say that since its first issue in 1982, the newspaper has likely opposed just about every civil or human rights initiative that Lowery has stood for his entire life.

What was the Rev. Lowery doing celebrating the life of Rev. Moon?

According to several people I contacted who are familiar with Moon’s longterm initiatives within the black community, Lowery’s relationship with Moon dates back at least to the mid-1980s when Moon served an eighteen-month sentence for tax fraud, obstructing justice and committing perjury. At the time, Moon’s Unification Church tried—and were somewhat successful—in lining up supporters in minority communities, particularly among African American clergy, by claiming that Moon was being persecuted because of racial and religious intolerance.

In the intervening years, Moon’s operations have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to black churches and to an assortment of community projects.

Despite the longstanding Lowery/Moon relationship, those I spoke with feel that Lowery has been consistently true to progressive values and politics.

Epilogue: A picture of Barack Obama attending a Moon-organized meeting in Chicago in 2003 is currently up on the Web site of the Unification Church. While there is no evidence that Obama has had anything to do with Moon other than attending this one meeting, Moon is using the picture to further his own ends. The picture’s caption reads: “While in Korea after the US presidential election, Ki Hoon Kim felt strongly that America and Barack Obama immediately needed True Parents’ [Moon and his wife] blessing. Thus, when he met with True Parents in November 2008, he received True Father’s signature on a picture of Barack Obama at the 2003 True Family Values Awards Banquet.”

* For Moon 101, see SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy.

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Economic Crisis may Downsize Death Penalty

With the economic crisis burrowing deeper into state after state, several legislatures have begun to look at curbing the use of the death penalty as a way to save their states millions of dollars. In a recent column titled “From a financial perspective, the death penalty fails”—former state court administrator Jim Oppedahl asked if administering the death penalty was “really how we want to spend scarce tax dollars [since it is]… a process that clogs our courts and bogs down the precious time of our law enforcement agencies? The answer to these questions is a resounding no. There is simply no place for such an enormously expensive government program that accomplishes nothing. And on that criterion alone, the death penalty ought to die.”

In Hutchinson, Kansas, hutchnews.com recently reported that legislatures were considering a bill that would repeal the state’s 1994 death penalty law: “A bill headed for hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee later this month would require that convicted criminals not be sentenced to death after July 1, 2009. The state’s maximum sentence would be life without the possibility of parole under the measure,” hutchnews.com reported. If passed, the bill would not “affect the 10 inmates already facing death sentences in Kansas, but it would be aimed at reducing future costs incurred under the death penalty.”

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RD Tidbits: Christian Author’s $10,000 Challenge: Ray Comfort, the author of the new book, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think,” published by WND Books, has challenged scholar and bestselling author Richard Dawkins to a debate. Comfort promises to give $10,000 to Dawkins, or a children’s-related charity, regardless of who wins the contest. “Richard Dawkins is arguably the most famous living atheist, now that Anthony Flew doubted his doubts and backslid,” said Comfort, co-host, along with actor Kirk Cameron, of the TV show The Way of the Master. “Flew said that he simply followed the evidence. I would like to see Richard Dawkins follow his example.”

Election Detritus: The Conservative Hollywood 16: What do Dan Aykroyd, Pat Boone, Dean Caine, Jon Cryer, Clint Eastwood, Joe Flanigan, Kelsey Grammar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Susan Saint James, Pat Sajak, Gary Sinise, Ben Stein, Connie Stevens, Rip Torn, Janine Turner, and Dick Van Patten have in common?*

They all contributed to John McCain’s primary campaign and/or his presidential run.

*Notes: Aykroyd also donated to $4,600 to Al Franken’s Minnesota senatorial campaign and in 2000, he supported Al Gore for president; Boone has contributed to the Republican Party and GOP candidates since the 1980 Reagan campaign; Cryer also donated $4500 to Barack Obama’s campaign; Grammar supported Rudy Giuliani in the primary before switching to McCain; Saint James also gave Franken $7500, and supported the campaigns of Obama and Hillary Clinton; Sajak originally supported Fred Thompson and then switched over to McCain for the general election; Stein also gave $1000 to the campaigns of Ralph Nader and Franken.

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