To wear your six-shooter to church in Georgia, now all you need is the preacher’s okay. The state’s unique “guns everywhere” law also applies to bars and bartenders.
You can wear your sidearm in church as long as you have a license to carry -- and permission of the pastor.
“The law allows religious leaders to ‘opt in’ to permit guns on their worship premises,” reports Claire E. Healey at Townhall. “Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law in April.“
“Calling it ‘a great day to reaffirm our liberties,’ Deal said the law allows residents to protect their families,” reported CNN, “and expands the list of places where they can legally carry firearms while allowing certain property owners, namely churches and bars, to make judgments on whether they want worshippers and patrons carrying guns.”
Governor Deal says the legislation protects citizens. “License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law,” he said at a public picnic. “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules-- and who can protect themselves and others from those who don't play by the rules.”
However, Georgia Episcopalians aren’t writing guns into their liturgy.
“Robert Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta,” reports Josh Sanburn at Time magazine, “sent an open letter last week to the 56,000 members that make up the dozens of Episcopal churches throughout north Georgia with a simple message: ‘Don’t bring guns into the house of God.’”
“Jesus did not preach a gospel of self-protection, a gospel of live by the sword, die by the sword,” Wright says. “Quite the opposite.” Wright says that while he understands the need for Second Amendment protections for those wanting firearms for self-defense or for sport he sees the very idea of guns in church as blasphemous.
“Weapons in a place of sanctuary seem to me to be inconsistent with a God of love,” he says. “The prince of peace isn’t spelled P-I-E-C-E. It’s P-E-A-C-E.”
In Columbus, Ga., “Faith Worship Center International pastor Norman Hardman is one of the church leaders that opted to ban the weapons,” reports Brownie Marie at Christianity Today.
“I think that if we let people go loosely, we'll have a vigilante spirit,” he told TV station WTVM. “I'm glad that at this point, we can put up a sign that says, 'You can't bring this in here.'‘
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta issued guidelines last week for its parishes, which encompass 69 counties throughout Georgia. “The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by the children and the vulnerable,” advised Archbishop Wilton Gregory.
On the other hand, the Georgia Baptist Convention supports the bill. The convention, made up of 3,600 congregations throughout the state.
“We think it’s important that churches be able to make their own decisions,” said Mike Griffin, a pastor and lobbyist for the convention.
“But Episcopal Bishop Wright says he believes most people of faith in Georgia don’t want guns on church property,” reported Time. “And it’s not just Christians. He says he’s heard from Muslim and Jewish leaders as well who oppose it, citing about 200 other religious leaders who have publicly spoken out against the bill.
“I don’t know how you reconcile Jesus who says, ‘Love they neighbor, love thy enemy,’ and at the same time being armed to the teeth,” Wright said.
Publication date: July 3, 2014