Wisconsin churches rethink security after Texas shooting
5:54 PM, Nov 13, 2017
5:55 PM, Nov 13, 2017
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Several places of worship in Wisconsin are adding armed guards or seeking security training after a man killed more than two dozen people at a Texas church.
At Bridge Point Church in Green Bay, they've been working on security upgrades for the last five years with things like locking all child education rooms and moving the nursery to a more visible location.
However, after the shooting in Texas, Pastor John Nehs said he's having more open and frank conversations with his congregation, now considering keeping outside doors locked during worship times.
"I'm real reluctant to do that because we're the church," said Pastor Nehs. "Our doors are open for a reason. But you know it can't be off the table anymore in lieu of what's going on in our culture."
Madison-area churches are also considering security changes.
Madison police Officer Matt Magolan said it's a good idea for religious leaders to make building security a priority, even if it feels uncomfortable. He and other authorities have conducted active-shooter training sessions for civic groups, including churches, as part of their ongoing efforts to bolster security against active-shooter threats.
"There's always the trade-off: security vs. free access," he said. "Churches want to be accessible to everyone, and unfortunately it makes them an easy target."
Gurinderjit Grewal, president of the Middleton Sikh temple, said his temple had a police presence four times a year, during special prayer days. In the wake of the Texas shooting, that will increase.
"I believe from now on we will use armed security every single Sunday," he said. "In the future, we don't know -- maybe we will change more things, maybe bulletproof glass at the door," he added. "You never know when some mad mind will come."
Last Sunday, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 25 people; authorities put the number at 26 because one victim was pregnant.
Bishop Harold Rayford, president of the Madison-area African-American Council of Churches and pastoral leader of Faith Place Church in Sun Prairie, said Dylan Roof's 2015 attack on a black church in South Carolina was a wake-up call for him because it was racially motivated.
"It had us really up in arms because we were afraid of copy cats," he said. While Kelley's motives were apparently different, council members are still concerned. He said each church as increased its vigilance.
While Rayford said he ultimately believes God will protect, he will hire off-duty officers from the Sun Prairie Police Department to guard services at his church. Still, he said there are some misgivings.
"Our concern is that we not become unwelcoming places," Rayford said. "We can't allow that exception to become a rule and to makes us so suspicious of people that we can't worship together."