Beliefs Politics

Court upholds Georgia ban on guns in church

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(RNS) A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia’s ban on bringing guns into places of worship.

The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, a Baptist pastor, and a gun-rights group had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia?s ban on bringing guns to places of worship.

A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia?s ban on bringing guns to places of worship.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday (July 20) that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation’s First and Second Amendment rights.

Gun-rights advocates might want a weapon for self-defense, but that is a “personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose,” the court ruled.

Jerry Henry, executive director of, said the minister and his organization are mulling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We think they’ve got it wrong again,’’ he said in an interview Tuesday (July 24).

“The church’s First Amendment right prevails over the state right to tell them what they can and cannot do,” Henry said.

The appeals court also rejected arguments about the constitutional amendment permitting U.S. citizens to bear arms.

“A place of worship’s right, rooted in the common law, to forbid possession of firearms on its property is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment,” the court said.


About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • It is one thing for a church ITSELF to decide to ask people not top bring firearms, but for the STATE to TELL a church that it CaNNOT CHOOSE to allow firearms on its own premises is a different matter.

    Frankly, I think such prohibitions that are unconnected from actual searches and metal detectors at entrances are simply invitations to killers to come to a chruch so they can kill people without fear of being shot back at. Advertising your vulnerability is foolish. People intent on shooting people are NOT deterred by an additional misdemeanor penalty for bringing a firearm into a church. By punishing the law abiding, they just encourage the lawless. The truth is that in larger congregations, usually there is at least one person in the congregation who is a law enforcement officer and is required to carry his or her firearm at all times, regardless of such prohibitions on firearm carry by civilians. And of course, there is the option of actually hiring someone as a security guard, which has proven helpful in the recent past when a shooter attacked a church in Colorado. Since the church is vulnerable anyway, it should be allowed to invite members to bring their lawful firearms in order to provide protection to the rest of the congregation.

  • The way I understand the law, based on the court’s opinion, a place of worship can say that it’s ok for a licensed carrier to bring her weapon in with her. I’ll confess that I didn’t read the whole opinion though.

  • I do not understand why people want to carry weapons in church.

    They must not have much faith if they don’t believe God is going to deliver them from evil.

    God has a plan, and it just might involve a bunch of people being shot while at church. Why don’t they trust in God’s plan?