New Jersey churches are stepping up security efforts following attacks on houses of worship in the United States and abroad.
Local churches have created security teams and are offering specialized defensive training to staff members, volunteers, and congregants.
Rev. John Porta, a former United States Treasury Department security adviser and a personal protection specialist, leads a nonprofit called Mighty Warrior Ministries that is helping houses of worship be better prepared.
“We are providing safety and security training to members
of church congregations as a community service, so they can have a more secure church,” Porta said in a news release. “We want to give guidance to those providing safety and security at their houses of worship, so those in attendance, children and adults alike, feel safe.”
Porta and his team recently provided such training to more than 100 people at Calvary Temple International in Wayne.
Churches, a synagogue, and mosques have been targeted in a series of bombings and shootings this year.
A gunman entered a San Diego-area synagogue and shot one woman and wounding three other people with an “AR-type assault weapon,” CNN reported. The gunman shot people as they gathered to celebrate the end of Passover.
There was a series of coordinated attacks on churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people, and 50 people were killed in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently re-established a subcommittee under the Homeland Security Advisory Council focusing on the security of faith-based organizations across the United States.
“The right to practice our respective religious free of interference or fear is one of our nation’s most fundamental and indelible rights,” Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of the DHS said in a memorandum to Judge William Webster, chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. “Therefore, the targeting of houses of worship by violent extremists of any ideology is particularly abhorrent and must be prevented.”
The subcommittee is slated to examine ways faith-based organizations have regular access to information about domestic extremists and the threats they could pose to faith-based organizations.
Porta said that while people need to be conscious of what is going on around them, and in the world in general, they cannot let fear control them.
“It’s hard to guarantee anything in life, be it at school, the workplace, or houses of worship, we cannot hide or ignore what’s all around us,” Porta said. “We need to always be aware, and be able to live a life without fear.”
— By Daniel Hubbard, editor