Can churches grant "Sanctuary?"

I used to work at a homeless shelter located in a Church. Working with that population, one must needs deal with the police, but the Church was rather skittish about having cops with guns come in, especially if they were coming in for someone we were giving food and a bed. So the policy was that if the cops came looking for somebody, I told the (veteran, Chicago) cops to wait outside (in January) while I went inside and told our guest that someone was here to see him, and would please like to come outside? Needless to say, my job was a load of fun.

Anyway, I never really had a problem, and the cops and guests went along pretty well, but I always wondered if I could have tried to grant “Sanctuary.” Is this really a legal thing or juat a tradition? Let’s assume for the discussion that they are not in hot pursuit, and let’s make me a clergyman. Can I tell the cops “no”? Is a special warrant needed? Lawyers, please…

they can in canada…or at least in New Brunswick…
there was a refugee family ready to be deported and they got ‘sanctuary’ from a church for like a year. They couldnt leave the church or they would be picked up and deported.
this was about 3 years ago.

No leagal ‘sanctuary’ in the US. If the cops have a warrant for an arrest and they have 'reasonable knowledge" that a person is in a certain place they can go anywhere to serve it,even use forcible entry. A search warrant also gives them the right to enter,and use force to enter.They can’t just go inside anywhere to see if John Dilenger is in thereIn a shelter situation it is a common courtesy to ask,it does make the SOME of the residents jittery to have cops in and out.From a practical side,if the cops don’t hassle the residents,they generally know where somebody might be if they do want to ‘question’ him.

Bounty hunters, on the other hand, will kick throught the stained glass window and behead baby Jesus with an uzi to find their perp.

Legally, “sanctuary” has been a meaningless term since the Middle Ages. In midieval times, when the lines separating secular law and Church law, state power and church power, were much hazier, the Church could demand special exemptions and favors from the government. A Church’s property was not, officially, subject to secular laws, and many (though not all) secular authorities allowed bishops and priests free rein to do as they liked on Church grounds.

The land on which an English cathedral sat was, technically, not within England’s jurisdiction- it was as if the cathedral were a piece of foreign soil in the middle of England (just as the Russian EMbassy in the U.S. is, strictly speaking, Russian territory). So, in the Middle Ages, a fugitive from the law could seek sanctuary in a Church, and might even get it, if the local secular lawmen respected the authority of the CHurch.

However, today, almost no country takes the idea of “sanctuary” seriously. A few left-leaning churches have invoked the concept in recent years (liberal Catholics, for instance, have sheltered illegal aliens and Central American refugees, and insisted these people had the right to “Sanctuary” and would not cooperate with the police or the INS.

“Sanctuary” is an utterly invalid legal concept in the USA, but secular authorities may prefer not to fight the Church publicly.