Sanctuaries under Siege: Fear among US Worshippers Centered on Armed Intruders

Church Mutual survey shows attendees’ greatest fear is now armed intruders in their places of worship

In places of worship — the hallowed spaces that offer refuge and sanctuary — more than 1 in 10 Americans (12 percent) say they do not feel safe. Their top concern: 45 percent said they feared armed intruders.

These and other findings from the new Church Mutual House of Worship Safety and Security Study were released Monday by Church Mutual Insurance Company, one of the nation’s leading insurers of religious organizations. It is the first survey commissioned by the organization to examine Americans’ safety and security concerns related to their places of worship. Of the 2,001 consumers surveyed, more than half (51 percent) said that they regularly attend a church or house of worship.

“It’s deeply upsetting that today’s worshippers, regardless of religion, have to contend with the very real possibility of an armed intruder,” Rich Poirier, Church Mutual president and CEO, said. “Even beyond churches, many organizations, from schools to offices and factories, are asking themselves, ‘What do we do if an armed intruder enters our facility?’”

Fear of armed intruders surpassed natural disasters (25 percent), cybersecurity breaches (11 percent) and even sexual misconduct (13 percent) as the top safety/security concern identified by the survey. Men who regularly attend worship services were significantly more concerned about all the potential threats facing houses of worship.

Preparing for the Unthinkable
When asked if their place of worship had implemented a prevention/response plan for armed intruders, 39 percent said “yes,” while 61 percent indicated “no/don’t know.” Survey respondents identified several ways that a house of worship could make attendees feel safer:

  • 61 percent – communicate and educate on safety plans
  • 56 percent – work with local law enforcement to prepare
  • 55 percent – train staff and volunteers
  • 51 percent – develop response plans
  • 44 percent – increase physical security

“We know that people consider a safe and secure house of worship to be very important,” Poirier said. “And nothing undermines our fundamental sense of security than the possibility of violence. Our security experts recommend all organizations have a response plan in place, and we also have many resources and tools to help save lives.”

Church Mutual has created an armed intruder resource kit that’s available to anyone at no cost, on their website. It features videos, checklists, FAQs and important assessment and planning guides. To access the tools and information, visit:

This release originally appeared at Business Wire. You can view it here.


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