Our Constitution makes it very clear that there should be a hands off approach to any entanglement between government and churches. The Supreme Court has amplified it through the years and the lawmakers have pretty clear direction that if they make any laws impacting churches there must either be
(1) a darn good reason why, or
(2) that the law impacts generally everyone the same way and that the churches’ religious charter has nothing to do with the law (i.e., safety codes allowing certain maximum occupation of a building based on size regardless of the type of organization.).
The Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 states this in no uncertain terms. However, the courts have ruled that this Act only applies to Federal regulations and not to the individual states and their laws. As a response to the ruling a number of states have enacted their own RFRA that limits what they can do, but many others have chosen not to do so.
A church is a 501(c)3 charity, the same as thousands of other charities. These range from the local animal shelter to the “Ladies of the Green Hat Society.” There’s nothing extra-special about being a 501(c)3, it’s just a way to notify the Federal and state government that one is a tax-exempt organization.
Yet, of the thousands of 501(c)3 organizations some states specifically singled out only one type, churches, as being off limits to those who are legally licensed to carry a handgun. (CCW for short).
Many of these states also ban CCW holders from schools, bars, casinos, government buildings and other places, but these almost always have some connection with the state… they are either owned outright by the state such as schools, regulated in some fashion or another, or answer to the state for certain aspects of their business. This nexus simply does not hold true for churches.
The sole reason that the legislature picked the churches out from all the other charities to ban CCW on the premises is simply because of religious reasons. Someone, somewhere, thought it would be an offense against God for a CCW holder to carry in a church.
This was made very clear when Michigan was considering CCW a few years back. The quote from the Metro Times leaves no doubt:
“Tom Hendrickson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, says the idea of mixing guns with religion doesn’t make his day.” ‘Law enforcement is of the opinion that these are places where people shouldn’t be armed.’ ”
Mr. Hendrickson can only justify his comments about churches via ultimately appealing to an argument based upon religious views concerning the “sanctity” of the church. Without the sanctity argument, there is no uniqueness to a church as an organization that requires or demands special treatment in this particular law.
If there was any actual reason it would logically apply equally to every other charity which holds group meetings, and the law would then have been written to also cover them.
It is not up to the state to determine what the state-mandated default position a church or a member should have concerning the theological question of self-defense. Church property is totally privately owned, and other than the general laws that apply to everyone else those who own it are free to make their own rules as to what people may or may not carry on their property.
Since this portion of the various state laws cannot be justified under either condition (1) or (2), it is clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment. I cannot imagine a court holding these sections up for approval.
Churches should not be mentioned in any CCW law, period. If the law provides that any private organization or business may post or otherwise observe a “gun free” environment, then any church would fall under the same regulation under condition (2) listed above. They have full freedom along with every other organization to determine their own philosophy towards this issue.
I invite you to browse around and look at some of my other blogs. I am sure that you will find something of interest to you.
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