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(RNS) The world’s largest security training organization has opened a new church-security division and will instruct churches on how to prevent and respond to violent crimes at its annual conference in September.
ASIS International’s new church-security division will lead a seminar at its convention in Anaheim, Calif., to address threats and vulnerabilities that leave faith-based organizations at risk for violence.
“They don’t think that it can happen (to them). That’s the biggest issue we have to overcome,” said Donald Knox, chairman of ASIS’s Houses of Worship Security Working Group.
A separate organization, the Christian Security Network (CSN), which tracks violence against churches, recently reported that six of the 17 violent crimes reported by Christian churches in the first half of 2009 resulted in homicides. The report also claims that faith-based organizations suffered $6.3 million in property loss due to burglary, theft, robbery, arson and vandalism.
“We frequently receive calls and e-mails from church members who are worried and frustrated that their church leadership is not more proactive about church security,” CSN executive director Jeffrey Hawkins said in a statement.
ASIS’ Houses of Worship Security Working Group was formed last January due to a rise in crimes against faith-based organizations. Knox said their work is more necessary than ever following the June shooting death of an abortion provider in the lobby of his Wichita, Kan., church.
“There are some large mega-type churches that are fortunate to have full-time security on staff,” Knox said. “But, that’s not the greatest percentage of churches and faith-based organizations.”
ASIS plans to release a free resource guide for churches in August that pools resources from other security task forces. The guide will urge faith-based organizations to form safety teams, assess risks of high-profile attendees and outspoken religious leaders, and be honest with members about potential dangers in their congregations.
ASIS International, formed in 1955 to keep security professionals updated with the latest practices and technology, has more than 30 councils focused on various industries, from higher education to health care to transportation. The Houses of Worship Security Working Group consists of members from such councils, including the Museum, Library & Cultural Properties Council and the Crisis Management and Business Continuity Council.
By Lindsay Perna
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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