Shelby Co. residents discuss church safety issues - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Shelby Co. residents discuss church safety issues

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Source: John Huddleston/WBRC Source: John Huddleston/WBRC
SHELBY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

You probably feel safe when you go to church. However, according to law enforcement officials you might not be as protected as you think.

"You may have an employee or you may have just a member of the congregation that uses their position in the church to prey on somebody," Shelby County Chief Deputy John Samaniego said.

Knowing about that possibility is the first step to prevention, according to officials with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. They, along with several other organizations, held a church safety conference Monday night at North Shelby Baptist Church to educate church leaders of the dangers they might not know about.

Speakers focused on security issues within local churches as well as Internet security, disaster preparedness and the threat of pedophiles to youth groups.

"Anyone is capable of being a child molester," said law enforcement consultant Russell Yawn.

When he was an officer, Yawn spent a large part of his career tracking down and arresting child predators. He says churches, while normally safe, are not immune to the dangers.

"They might be naive. They might be too trusting. And that's what a lot of the pedophiles, a lot of the child predators count on is the relaxed atmosphere, the need for volunteers to come forward and help with the child."

Yawn recounted one case in Alabama, where a pastor actually was arrested for abusing a child. He didn't go into details, but the point was not lost on the audience.

"We feel better being proactive alerting people other than just being reactionary," said Samaniego.

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