By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
CLAREMORE, OK -- Violence in churches has jumped more than 200% in the past year. Most of those cases are happening in small towns.
Claremore Police say protecting the pulpit is a big concern and that's why they're training church leaders how to beef up security.
Claremore has had two incidents of violence in churches this spring. Anadarko had a pastor murdered in her church and Billy Joe Daugherty, before his death, was punched during an alter call. These cases are on the rise, which is why police say churches need to think about Sunday morning security.
In 2007, a man killed three and wounded five during a Missouri church service. That same year, a man with an AK-47 and 400 rounds of ammo, killed four at a Colorado church.
Earlier this year, two teenagers were shot when men opened fire inside a church in San Francisco.
The list goes on and those are the headline grabbing cases. There are many other cases of church violence, many are never reported.
To track church crime in Oklahoma, visit Church Safety News
Scottie Titsworth pastors the North Park Trinity Baptist Church in Claremore and says protecting the congregation and employees requires a combination of prayer and planning.
"It comes with trusting the Lord to protect you and guide you," said Pastor Scottie Titsworth. "But, he gives you a mind and heart and soul to work these things through. He doesn't want you to be ignorant of these things."
They have cameras and automatically locking doors and everyone from the parking lot helpers, to the greeters, deacons and ushers have been trained how to spot troublesome behavior, while also being friendly.
"It's a balance for sure, but it's not a hard thing," he said.
This disturbing trend led Claremore police to offer training for church leaders.
"Some people say are we justified? Is it biblical, legal, moral to protect the flock?" said Captain Charles Downun, Claremore Police. "This course does a great job of saying yes, it's biblical and ethical. There's a big difference between being a martyr and being a victim."
The course teaches churches how to create a plan and communicate and covers all kinds of security issues. They say it's a sad reality that requires this.
"It's a travesty that we have to meet in a church to think about that," Captain Downum said. "The world is different, it's a changed place."
Any church leaders interested in getting trained can attend this weekend's church security training session at:
Memorial Heights Baptist Church
1500 West Will Rogers Blvd, Claremore
Saturday, June 5, 2010
The training lasts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It costs $10 per person, which covers materials and lunch. To register, call 341-5952.