Some Oklahoma Churches Hire Armed Guards

Monday, June 8th 2009, 10:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- As the federal government investigates the killing of a Kansas doctor inside his church, some churches in Oklahoma are doing what they can to keep worshippers safe.

The murder of Dr. George Tiller isn't the only fatal church shooting this year.  Some churches around Tulsa are resorting to armed security officers as a last resort.

Cliff Bales is well-known to the members of First Baptist Church.  It's his job.  He sometimes keeps a high-profile while greeting worshippers in the lobby.  Other times, he keeps a low-profile by hanging in the shadows during the service.

He's a 17 year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department.  And, he's also in charge of the church's six-member security team.  All six are armed.

"It's somewhat sad to say that we have to do this," said Cliff Bales.  "You know, you hope and pray for the best. But, you prepare and train for the worst. Even at church."

In the last 12 weeks, two men have been gunned inside the sacred walls of churches.  Several others have been seriously injured.  An Illinois pastor was shot four times as he delivered his morning sermon.

And last week, a doctor shot to death in his church's lobby.

"I study the situations that occur like that, so we're prepared here in case anything pops up," said Cliff Bales.

Paul Bailey is also an officer hired by the church for security.  He sits in the pews during the service.

"Well, we're probably one of the few that might get away with only praying with one eye," said Paul Bailey.

Bales says his job and his faith are the most important things to him.  Here at church, his job is to make sure the faith is protected.

First Baptist Church regularly draws 2,000 worshippers to its Sunday service.  And, during services, an unmarked police car patrols the parking lot.