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Georgia Men Arrested for Threatening Violence at Church

07-09-2018

Law enforcement officials arrested a Georgia man after he reportedly attempted to pull his gun out during a service at the O'Neal Church of Christ in Athens.

Authorities say Thomas Zebulun Lewter, 34, approached the pulpit during the sermon and began speaking about his pending divorce against his wife, who was also attending the service.

When church members tried to calm him down, Lewter attempted to pull his handgun out of its holster. Several people tackled and retrained him while others called the police.

The Limestone County Sheriff's Office says Lewter was charged with making a terrorist threat and is currently in jail.

Earlier that week, West Virginia police arrested another Georgia man who pulled a knife on a missionary group in church after he was asked to silence his cell phone.

According to The Register Herald, Bernard B. Edmond, 26, flipped tables, threw chairs and chased people with knives Wednesday at Nehemiah Baptist Church in Cool Ridge, West Virginia.

According to the criminal complaint, congregants were forced to barricade themselves in another room, until Edmond was finally restrained with a stun gun by police.

Edmond is charged with assaulting an officer, making terrorist threats, and brandishing a weapon.

These are just two examples of church violence that security consultant and researcher Carl Chinn says is on the rise.

According to his Deadly Force Incident Study, 2017 was the most violent year for faith-based organizations in American history.

The study shows that between January 1, 1999 and December 331, 2017, there were at least 1,705 violent incidents with deadly force potential. Of those, 478 were murders.

The top motives for these attacks are robbery and domestic violence issues that have spilled over onto church property.

Chinn urges leaders to enforce safety measures at their churches. Despite the threat of violence, he says Christians should not be consumed with worry.

"We should embrace biblical teachings to 'not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear…' But being confident in our faith doesn't mean we stop participation in our own preservation and social interaction," he says.

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