Across America, the implementation of Security Ministries is the number one trend in churches today, according to Thom Rainer the CEO of Lifeway. By engaging their own members in implementing a visible level of deterrence, these ministries are without a doubt the most effective strategy that churches, with limited resources, can employ to protect themselves. Ironically, the “security statutes” are the biggest obstacle for nearly every church in Texas wishing to implement such a ministry.
The Texas Occupations Code and subsequent DPS opinion is ambiguous at best. The law states that churches implementing a “security patrol” would require licensing. The DPS opinion then gives some wiggle room however it defines that wiggle room with the word “Arguably”. This is not clear. The opinion is not law, however it can be used by prosecutors attempting to determine if a church is in compliance with the law.
Assuming a strict adherence to the law, there are three significant problems with the law as currently written:
- This law puts very onerous regulations for licensing onto a church. A church would have to establish itself as a Security Company, which most would have to overcome tremendous problems even qualifying.
- A church is required to find a “Manager” to oversee the program under the current law. Given the stringent experience requirements required to qualify as a manager, most churches would not be able to meet this requirement and subsequently go unprotected.
- Every person on their team would be subject to background checks, fingerprinting and individual licensing at significant financial burden to members and the church.
- Multiple levels of licensing, and recurring annual licensing would be required for the church which again creates a significant financial hardship on these churches.
- Merely directing traffic in/out of a church parking lot can be considered a violation of law.
- The current law as written prohibits anyone who has a License to Carry from participating in a voluntary security ministry at their local church while armed. On any other day, these law-abiding Texans can legally be armed while in church. However, on the one day they have been asked to serve in the security ministry, they are mandated by law to disarm. The Occupations Code essentially usurps the rights guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of over one million Texas residents with a license to carry.
- The current law would require the religious institutions to secure separate insurance policies specific to the Security Company, again creating an unnecessary financial burden on these faith based institutions.
Representative Matt Rinaldi of Dallas (District 115) recognized the problem and has shown tremendous leadership in resolving it. He has proposed a solution via the introduction of HB 421. This bill simply calls for an exemption from the occupations code for churches and their volunteers serving in these ministries. This is a fantastic piece of legislation that essentially solves a myriad of problems. It is rare when such a small piece of legislation can positively impact millions of Texans and over 20,000 churches, synagogues and houses of worship.
Congregations all across this state need your support. Every church, synagogue and House of Worship in Texas is adversely impacted by the current legislation. Every one of them will directly benefit from this change. Churches are the last of the “soft targets”. It is high time the legislature remove any regulatory obstacle the church must overcome while attempting to create a more secure environment for your members. It is my earnest prayer you will seriously consider contacting your legislators, the NRA, and the Texas Rifle Association encouraging them to support HB 421. Lending your voice to this cause could mean the difference between this bill simply dying in committee or actually being enacted into law.
I am attaching a copy of the House Bill 421 along with the DPS Private Security Opinion Letter for your review. I am also attaching a link that will allow you to immediately identify and communicate with your State Representative and your State Senator. Please use these links to encourage them to support HB 421! Please share this post with as many people as you know!
Texas Legislator Lookup: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Zip.aspx
TEXAS HB 421
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to the exemption from application of the Private Security Act of certain persons who provide security services on a volunteer basis at a place of religious worship.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: SECTION 1. Subchapter N, Chapter 1702, Occupations Code,
is amended by adding Section 1702.333 to read as follows: Sec. 1702.333. PLACE OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP; CERTAIN VOLUNTEERS. This chapter does not apply to a person who is providing volunteer security services on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship.
SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 201
DPS Private Security Opinion Letter; Church Volunteer Security Patrol. May 10, 2007
A volunteer security patrol made up of church members would generally require licensing under the provisions of Section 1702.108 or 1702.222, regardless of whether any compensation is received as a result of the activities. The only exception to licensing provided by the legislature for nonprofit and civic organizations is found in Section 1702.327, which applies specifically to nonprofit and civic organizations that employ peace officers under certain circumstances and would not be applicable here.
However, there is one exception to licensing under Chapter 1702 provided by the legislature that could arguably apply, which can be found in section 1702.323 (“Security department of Private Business”). This exception would allow volunteers to provide security services exclusively for one church, as long as they do not carry firearms and as long as they do not wear “a uniform with any type of badge commonly associated with security personnel or law enforcement or a patch or apparel with ‘security’ on the patch or apparel.” See Tex. Occ. Code §1702.323(a) & (d)(2). Thus, the wearing of a uniform or any apparel containing the word “security” would subject them to the licensing requirements of the act.