MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force.
Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.
The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.
Critics of the bill argue that a police department that reports to church officials could be used to cover up crimes.
The state has given a few private universities the authority to have a police force, but never a church or non-school entity.
Police experts have said such a police department would be unprecedented in the U.S.
A similar bill is also scheduled to be debated in the House on Tuesday.