I crossed the narrow narthex from exterior door toward the sanctuary. That there were people other than myself in the narthex registered, but I took no notice. Then my hand made contact with the handle of the door to the sanctuary. At that point I heard a voice say, â€œYou canâ€™t go in there.â€ With that voice I suddenly became aware that the narthex was, in fact, full of people. All of them besides myself were armed, uniformed police.
I briefly considered entering the sanctuary anyway. Who are the police of Caesar to tell me I cannot enter a Christian house of worship? After all, I am not only an ordained United Methodist Elder, but am also ABD in a PhD in Church-State Studies, so I knew better than that officers of the State ought to restrict admittance to a church.
I very quickly weighed my options and decided making my flight home that afternoon was more important than getting involved in my own First Amendment case. I was escorted through the metal detectors into the hallway to wait with the others who had gotten there early.
The church was The Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. The occasion was a possible visit that Sunday morning by the President and First Lady. It was January 1999.
I understand there are security measures that must be taken before the President goes anywhere. Especially post September 11. But there is no excuse for allowing armed, uniformed agents of the state to control admittance into a place of worship.
This was before my time at Foundry. I understand that security requirements were not fun for anybody in those days. This, however, is the first time I seen a suggestion that security should have been adjusted by how far along one was in their doctorial studies. 😉