Guns not welcome in houses of worship

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

This week’s column is offered as a public service to readers who intend to pack your pistol to next week’s worship service at the mosque, synagogue or church. Leave your firearms at home, in the gun rack of the pickup truck or check them at the door with the ushers. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 20, 2012, upheld a 2010 Georgia law forbidding firearms in the Lord’s house. I don’t know whether the law allows one to carry a rifle to a church sponsored hayride or bring a shotgun into a one of those wedding ceremonies that take place because of certain unplanned conditions, but at least houses of worship must legally remain free of firearms.

This decision will not be universally welcomed, of course. In fact, the lawsuit challenging the legality of the law was filed by The Reverend Jonathon Wilkins, pastor of Baptist Tabernacle in Thomaston, in cooperation with GeorgiaCarry.org. These groups unsuccessfully argued that citizens have the right to carry registered firearms into places of worship. The Baptist Tabernacle had sued to allow its ushers and greeters to be armed, just in case something horrible happens in Upson County, GA, hardly a locale with a history of violent crime.

Having been in a few tense board meetings over the decades I, for one, am grateful that the court ruled against these souls who — by a huge leap of illogic — cited Jesus’ obscure advice (Luke 22:36) about purchasing a sword as commanding the followers of Jesus to purchase guns and carry them to church. That’s a bizarre line of reasoning, to be sure; one might suggest that were we to take Jesus literally we would each purchase not a gun, but a sword, which, as far as I know, may still be legal to carry to church.

I’m not sure why the state of Georgia chose to protect the religious community from itself, but I’m glad they did it. Along with nuclear facilities, prisons, state mental health facilities and court houses churches remain a gun-free zone. There are rifle ranges, plenty of good hunting property, and practically every other public place in Georgia where a person can legally carry a registered pistol. I don’t know whether it’s legal to bring brass knuckles, ninja stars or small switchblades into your house of worship, but guns, at least for the present, are illegal there.

It’s an interesting comment on our society when the courts must resolve what the religious community should know and practice for itself: that weapons are appropriate in many places and settings, but not in houses of worship where both the message and the lived-out weekly experience should be to model for the world a community that transcends the need for guns. When the Federal Appeals Court ruled against Rev. Wilkens, maybe he discovered that it’s easier to make a compelling case from the pulpit than before the bench.

Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at creede@wesleymonumental.org.


waltspecht 1 year, 11 months ago

From my limited exposure to individuals of the cloth,I would guess at least 35% carry concealed. I base this on the number I know, versus the number I know who carry. In South Carolina, for years, you had to be a State Constable to carry a concealed weapon. Most of those Constable Commisions were issued to Church Tresurers and Pastors. Kind of makes one wonder doesn't it? Why do you fear your Church Members so?


USTPC 1 year, 11 months ago

It is not the fear of church members I have. It is the fear that while I am worshiping some psycho who thinks all religions are bad or a former member who felt insulted decides to show up and open fire. As with all gun free zones the only ones who follow the rules are the law abiding citizens that are being prevented from having a gun. Criminals and psychos look for gun free zones because it eliminates or at least minimizes the danger to them personally.


RedEric 1 year, 11 months ago

Does this bumsted know that radical Islam has declared war on the rest of the world, including Christians, including Baptists, Including Creede Hinshaw?


reb_arty1863 1 year, 11 months ago

Sorry Rev I am leaving for church in a few minutes and I will be packing a 45 government model, with one round in the chamber,7 in the magazine, the hammer pulled back and both safeties on.A spare magazine as well. I take it everywhere except the cotehouse and airport. I will be breaking the law but it will take 9 to kill me. The first 8 will be in a bind.


Jacob 1 year, 11 months ago

Sounds like you could use some training on getting a quick reload on that second mag there, dirty harry.....


QUIK 1 year, 11 months ago

Rev. Hinshaw, your questioning is well taken as to the logic of carrying firearms in churches. I think you will find no logic for the fear, but fear is like that. I say carry whatever you want and that includes knives, machine guns, water pistols or a bat if that helps you conquer any fears a person may have. What troubles me is the idea that some gun owners have that the mere ability to own and carry a weapon validate their honesty and law abiding character.


Noonan 1 year, 11 months ago

A Georgia Firearms License is issued by the Probate Court of a citizen's county. The applicant undergoes a background check and submits fingerprints to the court. This process validates their law abiding character. There is no way to validate honesty.


QUIK 1 year, 10 months ago

Point well taken but in some states the background check or the lack of a check may not be enough. The honesty and character issue may only last until the background check is complete since some have purchased a gun for unlawful reasons. Over all the system is the best for now but I still believe that the more guns people legally carry does not equal a safer society as a whole.


Tonto 1 year, 11 months ago

A church is made up of the same folks you meet everyday on the street, at work, etc. You know nothing about most of the members except how they dress on Sunday's and how well their wife makes cookies. You do hear about the different tensions in marriages, jobs, children's actions, alcohol and drug abuse, etc. You do hear about the estranged husband or cheated on partner showing up, or child custody losers waving a gun to get their way because they KNOW no one in the church will be armed and able to stop them.

. I think a question may be why the government has made this a law for churches and governement buildings. Was this a church request? all denominations? Is there anything else the Gov can restrict church members from bringing to church (perhaps 32 oz sugar drinks?) I thought that was the Denomination's ruling body's decision to make. I often have concern when attending evening services or functions at the church since most older churches are located in the now 'run-down" part of town that see blue lights and hears sirens regularly.

Short of putting up a metal detector, you aren't going to stop folks from carrying.


djw009 1 year, 10 months ago

Creede Hinshaw, how can ANY of Jesus's commands be considered obscure? When they came to arrest Jesus, He knew it was about to happen, He also knew his disciple would use the sword to cut off the ear of the servant yet He did not prevent it. And the best worship of all would have been listening to Jesus. That would have been true church, not attending modern services where the majority who attend act totally different everywhere else. Guns are not evil, merely tools to be used or abused. My Lord and Master ordered I be armed. therefore i can rely on the first amendment freedom of religion to negate that judges ruling. he is of the earth not heaven


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