Religious leaders look at sanctuary safety

Gunman targeted Sikh temple near Milwaukee

In the wake of a shooting in a place of worship, religious leaders are thinking through safety procedures.

It’s a delicate balance of keeping people safe in their sanctuaries while keeping the doors open to anyone after tragedy struck in a Sikh temple near Milwaukee.

“To be in a house of worship here in Wisconsin, that really is personal to us,” said Cathedral Parish rector Rev. Kevin Holmes.

Holmes just finished praying with his congregation when he heard about the shooting Sunday in Oak Creek that left seven people dead, included the gunman.

“Short of putting metal detectors at the door, I don’t know how you would ensure that no one brings a firearm into church,” Holmes said.

After hearing that the FBI is investigating the Oak Creek shooting as a possible case of domestic terrorism, Ibrahim Saeed said he wants more security at the Islamic Center of Madison.

“People always feel like this is a sanctuary, this is a safe place, and they put this on our shoulders to make it safe,” said Saeed, who is board president for the Islamic Center of Madison

Saeed said he is considering locking up the doors more often so only those with a combination would be let in for worship. There are already cameras all around the building, but he said he might try installing more. Saeed said he doesn’t want to exclude anyone, but he said he has to protect those in prayer.

“We have to do something to make sure that these people who come here are safe,” Saeed said.

“An attack on any religious community is an attack on us all,” said Rabbi Jonathan Biatch with Beth El Temple.

For Biatch, safety at his synagogue is about being aware, not turning people away.

“It’s ensuring that we’re as ready as possible, that we’re as secure as possible, that those who need to know certain security procedures are understanding of what those procedures are,” Biatch said.

Members of the Muslim community said their religion is a more vulnerable target. The Islamic Center received guidelines from some of its national organizations suggesting things to do to ensure safety.

All of the faith leaders said their shock and sadness is felt across religions, and they are praying for everyone involved.

“We accept the fact that we live in a world where danger exists,” Biatch said.