By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Afraid the statewide bill they support will again die, some Alabama House members are sponsoring bills to clarify that church members in their local counties can use deadly force if threatened.
This is the fourth year Rep. Lynn Greer has sponsored legislation that clarifies the state’s “stand your ground” law applies inside houses of worship. It says a person is presumed justified in the use of force if they or someone else is in danger.
“A lot of big churches hire security, but little ones can’t afford it,” Greer said.
Opponents of the bill, including Democrats, say it’s not needed because the 2006 “stand your ground” law already applies in churches. Greer’s bill will cause confusion, they say.
The bill has yet to pass the House this session, which is at least halfway completed. In previous sessions, it has died in the Senate.
“There are groups up there (in the Senate), I don’t know, they just don’t like it,” Greer said Wednesday.
Now, Greer and others have filed county-specific bills with the same intent as the statewide bill.
“This is backup in case we can’t pass the state bill,” Greer said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were local bills for Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Limestone, Shelby and Talladega counties. Greer’s Lauderdale bill was approved in the House this week.
Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, is sponsoring the Limestone County version. He said the current law is “cloudy.”
“We have an Alabama ‘stand your ground’ law, but if you’re in a situation where you’re security (for a church), you go to the problem. That’s not really stand your ground — you went to find it.”
The local bills, if passed in the House and Senate, require constitutional amendments. While local legislation is sometimes only voted on in county it pertains to, that might not be the case with these bills.
Local bills are given deference in the state Legislature and, as long as all members of a county’s delegation sign off on them, they usually pass without opposition.
But because one lawmaker, Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, voted against Greer’s Lauderdale County bill, Alabamians statewide will now get to vote on it, if it clears the Senate.
The rest of the bills haven’t yet gotten a House vote, but Crawford said he thinks there will be “no” votes from opposed lawmakers. Crawford said he doesn’t vote on other counties’ local bills.
“I would hope folks would just not get involved,” he said.
Other local bill sponsors are Reps. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga and Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham.
Meanwhile, Greer said he’s still pushing the statewide bill.
“We’re not giving up,” he said.