The West Freeway Church of Christ shooting was the very thing I had hoped would never happen but knew that—in the current cultural climate—it was only a matter of time. This is why I worked so diligently, alongside former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, to see the Church Security Protection Act become a reality.
Back in early 2017, when I was the state director of Concerned Women for America of Texas, I noticed that Rep. Rinaldi authored a simple bill (HB 421) called the “Church Security Protection Bill.” The bill would allow churches to legally organize volunteer teams to protect their people and property, without having to secure any government licensing or hire licensed security personnel to do so. At the time, churches were bound by an obscure part of the Texas Occupations Code that required congregations to go through the private security licensing process in order to utilize church members and volunteers for a safety team. Their only other option was to hire licensed security personnel. Both of those options often proved to be cumbersome and unaffordable for many Texas congregations.
When HB 421 stalled in the committee, Rep. Rinaldi garnered support for the bill from State Sen. Kelly Hancock. Rep. Rinaldi managed to add the language of HB 421 as an amendment to Hancock’s SB 2065, which had found its way onto the House floor. The amendment sailed through without debate and was added to SB 2065 without fanfare. The bill was eventually signed into law by Gov. Abbott, becoming law in September of 2017.
A few things are interesting to note about this law. Nowhere in the language of the bill/amendment does it mention guns or firearms of any kind. It simply allows churches and other places of worship the freedom to determine how they organize themselves in order to protect their congregation. Also, the amendment states that churches are not allowed to call their teams “security” teams, but they can utilize other terms, like “safety” teams. They must refrain from wearing uniforms or anything that denotes them as “security” in any way, given that they are volunteers and not licensed.
The loss of life in this horrific church shooting is tragic, and we mourn the loss of our fellow Texans. But I cannot imagine how many more lives would have been lost if this church had not been allowed to organize a team in order to protect themselves.
The next time you are in your church and see your volunteer church safety team, pray for them. And say a prayer of thanksgiving for former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, State Sen. Kelly Hancock, Gov. Greg Abbott for signing it into law, and the countless other legislators who chose to support this life-saving piece of legislation.
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