States May Ban Guns In Churches, Court Rules

A federal district court has upheld a Georgia statute that prohibits carrying firearms in any place of worship.

A firearms group, GeorgiaCarry.org, a Baptist church and its pastor challenged the statute, claiming it violated their freedom of religion. They argued that they were burdened because they were unable to protect themselves while attending services. The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston said he wanted to have a gun while working in his church office.

Ed Stone, president of GeorgiaCarry.org, wrote in his filing that his “motivation to carry a firearm as a matter of habit derives from one of my Lord’s last recorded statements at the ‘last supper,’ that ‘whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one’…. I believe that this injunction requires me to obtain, keep and carry a firearm wherever I happen to be.”

U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal did not buy that argument, finding that the restriction did not burden their freedom of religion or infringe on the church’s ability to manage internal affairs. He said that the Thomaston church did not claim its members’ religious beliefs require them to carry a firearm to church, and he said the church’s pastor could keep a gun in his office with permission from the tabernacle’s management.

GeorgiaCarry.org says it will appeal the decision in GeorgiaCarry.org v. State of Georgia to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.