Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Concealed Weapon Bans and the Constitution
Court concludes that laws prohibiting concealed weapons in churches do not violate the Constitution.

Key point. State laws prohibiting holders of concealed weapons permits from carrying weapons on church property do not necessarily violate the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom or the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Does a state law prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in a church violate the constitutional rights of church members to bear arms and practice their religion? A federal court in Georgia said no. In 2010, the State of Georgia enacted a law making it a misdemeanor offense for a person with a concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed weapon "in a place of worship." Several plaintiffs, including a church and its pastor, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law.

First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom

The plaintiffs claimed that the statute violated their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion because it imposed an impermissible burden on their ability to attend or conduct worship services by prohibiting them from carrying a firearm on their person for self defense while doing so. The individual plaintiffs did not contend that their religious beliefs required them to carry a firearm into a place of worship, nor did the church allege that its members' religious beliefs required them to carry a firearm into their church. Instead, the plaintiffs claimed that attending worship services is a sincere religious belief that has been impermissibly burdened by the statute's requirements.

The court noted that the Georgia statute prohibiting concealed weapons licensees from bringing weapons onto church property "does not prohibit anyone from attending services at a place of worship. Instead, any burden on attending worship services is attenuated and tangential because the law only requires that persons either not carry a weapon to a place of worship, leave their weapons secured in their vehicles, or notify security or management personnel of the presence of the weapon and follow directions for removing, securing, storing, or temporarily surrendering the weapon."

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