The story in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily News about local police officials meeting with church leaders to share how to be prepared against an attack similar to the one outside San Antonio earlier this month was disturbing and sobering.
While we applaud the proactive gathering in response to the event, the mere fact places of worship — regardless of religion — must be both mentally and procedurally prepared for such aggression is a sad reflection on our society.
“The one place that most people would call safe is the house of God,” Marc James, pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church, said. “I believe that what we saw was that, even in worship, violence can still take place.”
Galveston Police Capt. David Millican told the group programs were available to assess the security in church buildings and to train people — including pastors, ushers and choir members — to act as first responders in emergency situations. Being prepared to respond, rather than prevent violence altogether, is the most realistic approach, Millican said.
“The devil comes to church, too,” Millican said. “The bad thing about it is that it’s going to be a response. It takes a nanosecond for it to go bad.”
Historically, houses of worship were considered off limits — sanctuaries for those in danger, lost or with nowhere else to turn. A safe house, so to speak — a detail lost in the unbalanced mind of shooter Devin Kelly when he killed 25 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
This editorial is not about placing blame, but rather calling to attention that something is wrong when houses of worship find themselves having to be prepared to react to an active shooter walking through the door.
Whether you are a follower or not, most people at least respect the nature and tradition of these institutions. We can all have our opinions, but there is no doubt the houses of worship play an important role in both societal and community fabrics around the world.
Blame the guns, blame the mental state or blame the elements of society that may house an environment of violence that can lead to the appalling behavior by Kelly. Pick one of the above or all three if you wish.
But the reality is when our houses of worship feel the need to be prepared for an active gunman walking through the door, we might ask ourselves if this is an indication of a dangerous turn in our society’s respect for basic decency.
If so, then God help us.
• Leonard Woolsey