The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to create its own police force in an almost unanimous vote.
State lawmakers on Wednesday (local time) voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.
The church said it needed its own police officers to keep its school and more than 4000-person congregation safe.
Critics of the bill argued a police department that reports to church officials could be used to conceal crimes.
The state has previously issued several 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 United States.
A similar bill is also scheduled to be debated in the House on Wednesday.