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All Revved Up, 10/29/2018

All Revved Up: Do Houses Of Worship Need Armed Guards?

Shooting Synagogue
A Pittsburgh Police officer walks past the Tree of Life Synagogue and a memorial of flowers and stars in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in remembrance of those killed and injured when a shooter opened fire during services Saturday at the synagogue.
Gene J. Puskar/AP
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All Revved Up, 10/29/2018

President Donald Trump's response to the deadliest incident of antisemitic violence in American history is raising a debate about whether houses of worship should start hiring armed guards for protection.

On Saturday, 11 people were murdered as they gathered for religious services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shortly afterward, Trump told reporters that "if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him."

Local leadership in Pittsburgh disagreed. The city's mayor, Bill Peduto, said in response to the president that he believed the correct course of action was to work to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

“We will not try to rationalize irrational behavior,” Peduto said. “We will work to eradicate it. We will work to eradicate it from our city and our nation and our world."

Reverend Irene Monroe and Reverend Emmett Price brought their perspectives on the debate to the latest installment of "All Revved Up," their weekly segment on Boston Public Radio. Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, and Price is a professor and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Price agreed with Peduto, saying that houses of worship in a free society should not have to be protected by armed guards.

"Places of worship should be safe spaces. They have been sanctuaries for generation upon generation," Price said.

"Inviting weapons into secure, safe places that should be secure anyway is not the answer ... It's the answer to the wrong question," he added.

Monroe argued that more security was needed at houses of worship. She pointed to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan, which killed four young girls, and the 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston church by a white supremacist, which killed nine African American parishioners, as evidence that more needed to be done to keep churchgoers safe.

"My point is that it's quite important that we keep our parishioners safe," Monroe said. "It's nothing wrong to have people, if ... you're in a kind of climate that we're in now, to have people as security."

"We're living in a different time," she said.

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