When a black-clad gunman walked into New Life Church on Sunday and started shooting, he was met with the church's first line of defense: a congregant with a concealed-weapons permit and a law enforcement background.
The armed volunteer, Jeanne Assam, shot the gunman, who police said may have committed suicide. New Life's pastor credited her with saving dozens more lives.
Churches want to present an open and welcoming image, but in an era of mass-casualty shootings and terrorism threats, the violence at New Life highlights a new emphasis on security. Some of the nation's estimated 1,200 megachurches — places where more than 2,000 worshippers gather each week — have been quietly beefing up security in recent years, even using armed guards to protect the faithful. . .
American Jews have long stressed the need to safeguard their community organizations, schools and synagogues. Many groups formed security committees. . .
The Homeland Security Department created a grant program of nearly $50 million to improve security for religious and secular nonprofits considered at risk of terrorist attack.
Several groups have received individual grants, according to Homeland Security officials.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also distributes a detailed security checklist, urging groups to build relations with local law enforcement and elected officials, report suspicious activity and hold community meetings to raise awareness of potential threats.