Churches win gun fight

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today that churches in the state have the right to ban handguns, despite the so-called concealed carry rule which allows residents to carry firearms.

Here’s the full decision (pdf).

An Edina church got this issue started when it sued over the part of the law that required churches and other private property owners to specifically post signs banning the guns.

The court cited this part of the Minnesota Constitution:

The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not deny or impair others retained by an inherent in the people. The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed … nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state.

The court said “churches’ affadavits establish that they adhere to a philosophy of welcoming visitors to a place of sanctuary and that compelling the use of specific language is inconsistent with their religious beliefs.”

One might argue, as people have, that churches have to post, for example, “exit” signs or even comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the court said there’s no evidence that those “require any change in the churches’ religious conduct or philosophy, is inconsistent with any religious belief, or would be immediately apparent to all entering the churches’ front doors in the same manner as the signs at issue.”

Far more interesting, however, is the argument that the law forces churches to violate the freedom of association under the U.S. Constitution. The district court ruled earlier that the concealed carry law forces churches to associate with people who wish to carry firearms on religious property by prohibiting churches from banning the possession of firearms in parking facilities and leased spaces. The Appeals Court said it was unnecessary for it to rule on that argument, though it might make a terrific online debate about what it means to be a “welcoming community.”

Tangent time – In Glens Falls, New York, a newspaper has upset gun clubs and gun owners after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for the names of gun permit holders in the community.