The 11th circuit court of appeals heard arguments in a suit brought by georgiacarry.org challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s law designating churches, mosques and synagogues in the Peach State as
free-fire zones gun-free havens of peace and tranquility. “We’re not trying to force churches to allow guns in their sanctuary,” said Kelly Kennett, a gun owner who is president of GeorgiaCarry.org. “Churches should be treated like any other private property owner. Why are you treating people at churches differently than how you’d be treated at a store, at a bank, at a club?” But as the AP reports, from the pointed questioning georgiacarry.org’s attorney took from the three-judge panel, the gun rights group appears to have a tough row to hoe…
It seemed the biggest stumbling block was the group’s decision to target the state but not the local prosecutors and authorities who would actually enforce the law. Judges pounced on GeorgiaCarry.org attorney John Monroe as soon as he began making his arguments.
“We’re not asking you to put in more defendants,” said Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat. “What we’re saying to you is there’s nothing we can do for you.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston, where the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins said he wanted to have a gun for protection while working in the church office. The judge also questioned how banning firearms in a place of worship violates religious freedoms.
At one point, Circuit Judge Ed Carnes questioned whether there’s any passage in the Bible that allows guns in churches. Did any challenger, he wondered, argue: “Thou shalt have the right to bring a gun to church?”
GeorgiaCarry.org attorney John Monroe said his client quoted scripture that underpinned his beliefs on firearms, but he wasn’t able to offer any of the quotes at the hearing.
The state, meanwhile, chose the old bob and weave defense.
State attorney Laura Lones, meanwhile, countered that the law only minimally restricts gun rights in churches. She argued the law can be interpreted to allow gun owners to bring their weapons into houses of worship as long as they have permission and keep the weapons secured. Carnes, though, called it a “creative” interpretation of the statute.
This all seems like a tempest in a teapot, really. Everyone knows shootings never take place in churches. Aren’t common-sense restrictions of second amendment rights a small price to pay for a quiet place to pray once a week?
Pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta is a big fan of the gun ban. As he put it, “It seems to me that churches and synagogues and mosques ought to be able to be places of peace, because our society needs that.”
We’d agree with the good pastor, and he’s welcome to restrict his flock to non-carriers as he sees fit. But using the power of the state to force Pastor Schmeling’s view on every other house of worship in Georgia seems a touch heavy-handed for a man of God.