Churches Get Security Wake-Up Call After Idaho ISIS Lone Wolf Plot

News Image By Chuck Norris/WND News Center April 24, 2024
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While the world continues watching to see if Israel and Iran will bring us to the brink of World War III, including through Iran's top-secret nuclear facilities, the U.S. has its own homegrown domestic terrorist disasters to divert.

Did you catch this in the news while Israel and Iran volleyed bombs back and forth?

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently and repeatedly warned Congress about potential "lone wolfs" carrying out attacks on U.S. soil due to the influence of terrorist events overseas.

Wray said he was intensely concerned that these lone wolfs would draw "twisted inspiration" from events in the Middle East and Russia: "Our most immediate concern has been that individuals or small groups will draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home," Wray told the House Appropriations Committee. "But now increasingly concerning is the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall a couple weeks ago."

Well, lo and behold, within a week the FBI arrested an 18-year-old Idaho American after discovering he swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS and was about to launch a "truly horrific" and "violent plot" to attack churches in his own hometown of Coeur d'Alene Sunday before last on behalf of ISIS, the Justice Department says.

An FBI investigator said Alexander Mercurio devised a plan to "incapacitate his father, restrain him using handcuffs, and steal his firearms to use for maximum casualties" in an attack he had been planning to carry out in the northern Idaho resort city on Sunday, April 7.

"His plan grew more precise as he eventually identified the specific church and date on which he planned to attack," the FBI investigator explained.

"His attack plan involved using flame-covered weapons, explosives, knives, a machete, a pipe, and ultimately firearms." The would-be terrorist also stated "his intention to die while killing others on behalf of ISIS."

Mercurio planned his attack at a specified church on April 7 so that it would occur before the conclusion of Ramadan, FBI Task Force officer John Taylor said in an affidavit.

The FBI said Alexander Mercurio implied to a confidential human source that "in conducting the attack, he intended to perform a good deed." (FBI)

What if Mercurio's violent plot was not discovered and he was not apprehended by the FBI? What murderous rampage might have befallen an unprotected Coeur d'Alene church service full of people? (Prophecy News Watch is located in Coeur d'Alene and it's staff attend local churches)

And the other question that keeps coming to all of us is: How in the world could an 18-year-old American citizen living in a relatively small rural resort town in Idaho, who has never been out of this country, find enough sympathy with ISIS abroad to swear an oath of loyalty to them and devise a "truly horrific violent plot" against innocent churchgoers on U.S. soil?

Many do not realize this: The recipe for terrorist recruitment already lies at the heart of our culture. America has not only provided the ingredients ourselves, but we stir the pot to boiling primarily through the following six ways:

An anti-Israel (anti-Semitic) sentiment has "exploded" in America, turning into "a five-alarm fire," up over 400%, according to NPR. Younger Americans are more likely to endorse anti-Jewish tropes, with millennials agreeing with the greatest number of anti-Jewish tropes, followed by Gen Z and Gen X. Support for Israel even among young evangelicals in the U.S. has plummeted by more than 50% in just three years.

According to the former president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, David L. Bernstein, and many others like him, America can also blame the proliferation of secular progressive and woke ideologies for the unprecedented escalation of anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiment as well as a host of other social and societal ills. (Mercurio opposed conservative Christian belief in Idaho.)

The Psychiatric Times asked and answered: "Who actually joins ISIS? Not psychopaths or the brainwashed, but rather everyday young people in social transition, on the margins of society, or amidst a crisis of identity.

"According to anthropologist and psychologist Scott Atran who has studied the motivations and demographics of terrorists, it is mostly youth in transitional stages in their lives - immigrants, students, those between jobs or girlfriends, or those who left their homes and are looking for new families. For the most part they have no traditional religious education [and] they are self-seekers who have found their way to jihad in myriad ways.

"Have you ever purchased junk food when tired, irritable, and jet-lagged at an airport? For lonely young people in transition, ISIS provides a quick fix to the perennial problems of human life. Vulnerable people don't tend to fact check when existential relief is easily and cheaply attained with little effort. 

Specifically, the relief in question concerns the human desire for identity, certainty, social connection, meaning, the optimal amount of freedom, and glory."
Matt Kriner, the director of Strategy, Partnerships and Intelligence at Middlebury University's Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, explained that most of this form of terrorist radicalization and recruitment is happening incrementally through online predators seeking vulnerable prey.

From a youth culture bombarded with narcissism and fears to soaring suicide rates, even the New York Times understands young minds and hearts are in a lot of trouble today, susceptible to all sorts of aberrant thinking and ways of living: "Article after article shows us that America's teenagers aren't doing well, without putting their finger on what is wrong beyond issues of individual 'mental illness' and the usual bugbears trotted out - social media, video games, the weakening of the family unit. 

But what are the teenagers telling us is wrong? We seem to have forgotten that adolescents are lightning rods for the zeitgeist. They live at the fault lines of a culture, exposing our weak spots, showing the available array of solutions and insolubilities. They are holding up a mirror for us to see ourselves more clearly."

"This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities," said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI.

When going to church in a rural resort area becomes an "imminent danger," it's high time for us to wake up and realize no one is safe, not at least like we used to be. That includes watching for rogue lone wolfs in sheep's clothing!

Moreover, if the president and feds won't protect us at our borders, allowing an untold number of terrorists into our country, as I proved in another recent column ("Terrorists in the U.S. the feds won't tell you about"), it's past time for us to make sure we are protecting ourselves against all enemies foreign and domestic.

The First and Second Amendments of the U.S. Constitution give us the right to the free exercise of religion and right to bear arms.

And as I've written before, remember that faith is not an excuse to bypass self-defense. That's not my original idea or position. It's found in the Good Book.

As one verse says in the Hebrew Scriptures: "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat."

Jesus himself said when instructing His followers: "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Those verses remind me of the sign near the front door of my Texas ranch. It has an engraved picture of a gun with the words next to it: "We don't call 9-1-1." (Maybe it's time a few churches put that sign on their doors, too.)

Of course, I realize there's much more to citizen and congregational safety than posting guards or bearing arms.

As Carl Chinn, church security expert and proprietor of the Faith Base Security Network, which is a website "to help churches and ministries recognize the need for intentional security and to provide simple concepts for starting or improving security programs," explained: "I have never allowed the message to be wrapped around that axle. I believe in our right to defend ourselves with a gun. 

When it comes to defending others, I believe in that as well, but strongly believe there should be training for that level of protection. A conceal carry license should not be the only affirmation of one's ability to protect others in a deadly force situation. ... To have folks who are intentionally ready is the best thing any organization can do."

To help prepare your faith community, I encourage sending a few key leaders to one of Faith Base Security Network's six training events in 2024.

Believe it or not, our government will even provide houses of worship with free personalized threat assessments. No joke! There are more than 75 state threat assessment (fusion) centers across our country, started post-9/11 under President George W. Bush for the sole purpose to better equip and protect our citizens. In fact, veterans are often employed by these fusion centers. If the leaders of your church or synagogue want a free personalized report, please find your state's Fusion Center & Contact Information on the Department of Homeland Security website.

Most of all, whether to domestic or foreign terrorists, we must never cower to their intimidation and fear, or allow them to restrict our thoughts, freedoms and actions. Indeed, congregants everywhere need to remember that church remains one of the safest places on the planet.

Here's how your sanctuary safety measures up to other stats, according to Christianity Today:

The chance you will die in the next 12 months from an injury are about 1 in 1,681.
In a car accident, the odds are 1 in 6,539
In a plane crash, 1 in 502,554
From a hornet, wasp or bee sting, 1 in 3,615,940
From a lightning strike, 1 in 6,177,230
From church violence, 1 in 18,393,327

So, don't even flinch or hesitate to enjoy and participate in church services. In fact, researchers explained during a 2017 American Psychological Association convention how faith and church even help mass-shooting survivors.

Whether we're discussing the courage of our veterans, churches and/or private citizens, it's all one more proof of what Elmer Davis, the director of the United States Office of War Information during World War II and a Peabody Award recipient, said decades ago, "This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."

Originally published at WND News Center

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