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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Clergy Move To Counter Georgia Law Allowing Guns In Churches

Clergy Move To Counter Georgia Law Allowing Guns In Churches

By Kristina Torres, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — Some of Georgia’s highest-profile religious leaders took an extra step this week to oppose what they see as an overzealous expansion of the state’s new gun laws, with authorities over many of the state’s Episcopal and Catholic churches announcing that their sanctuaries would ban all weapons.

More are likely to follow suit, as the more than 260-member interfaith clergy coalition opposed to House Bill 60 said it will act in response to Governor Nathan Deal’s signing of the new legislation in April.

The very public expressions of displeasure — at least one member described the legislation as “the worst bill passed this year” — have been unusual in that they are not required. The new law, which takes effect July 1, assumes no action by religious leaders will be required unless an individual place of worship decides to allow entry to someone carrying a gun.

They are also not universal, with tension among the state’s faith leaders exposing a deep divide across the state. Those that supported the legislation, most notably the Georgia Baptist Convention, cheered the ability of individual church communities to decide for themselves whether to allow guns through their doors.

Those who opposed the measure have claimed a moral victory about raising awareness about the measure and said they are likely to carry that message to the pulpit.

“We want people of faith to be aware of it, to vote their conscience and make their voices heard,” said the Rev. Pam Driesell, the senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. “I think more Georgians are aware of what happened because of our efforts and the efforts of others. I think they’re paying attention now and want to be a forces for a more peaceful vision.

Dubbed the “guns everywhere” legislation by opponents, HB 60 passed on the final day of this year’s legislative session and expands the list of places where Georgians may legally carry firearms to include schools, bars and government buildings.

It also for the first time expressly permits licensed concealed-weapons holders to bring firearms into churches, provided that an individual place of worship allows it. The legislation reduces the penalty to a $100 fine for licensed gun holders caught in off-limits sanctuaries.

“We certainly respect the right of other denominations and churches to be able to express themselves about what they believe,” said Georgia Baptist Convention spokesman Mike Griffin, whose denomination represents 3,600 churches and 1.4 million members statewide.

The convention, Griffin said Friday, “is not for or against weapons in churches. We’re thankful our churches are going to get the opportunity to decide for themselves.”

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, in contrast, oversees a Catholic population estimated at 1 million in metro Atlanta and the northern half of the state. He strongly opposed the measure along with Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, whose Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah represents South Georgia.

“Rather than making guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal,” Gregory wrote in a column published online Thursday afternoon in the Georgia Bulletin.

Similar to a directive issued Monday by Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Gregory told church leaders and parishioners that the only exception to the church’s policy will be on-duty law enforcement officers.

It is a similar mandate to one expected to be approved in the coming week by the board of The Temple synagogue in Atlanta, which is the largest in Georgia with more than 1,500 families.

Temple Rabbi Peter Berg called the legislation “embarrassing” and “hands-down the worst bill passed this year.” Still, he too said it was a wake-up call for religious leaders and others who in the past may not have paid close attention to state politics or policy.

“What I’ve found is the people I’ve spoken with, regardless of their political party, are ready to say ‘enough,’ ” Berg said. “This has to get fixed.”

Photo: via Flickr

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  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    We all know damn well what is going to happen. Some guy will try to bring a gun into one of these Churches and be denied by the pastor. He will then sue under HB60 and the 2nd Amendment claiming that the pastor is restricting his right to bear arms, even though the law allows it as the choice of the proprietor to do said banning.
    It would be most ironic if this were to occur in a Georgia Baptist Convention house of worship.

  • ps0rjl

    I can see it now at the Baptist churches. They will just rewrite the Bible slightly to say “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be the well-armed.”

  • Bill Thompson

    Mark my words churches that ban guns in their place of worship Will quickly see membership decline with the weekly contribution. In the end money will decide the churches policies. After all we are talking about Georgia and peoples weapons.

    • TheSkalawag929

      I think you give too much credit to idolaters of guns and money.

    • anthonyamerica

      Just a little overboard, bundy!

    • progressiveandproud

      I agree with you. Whether or not the loss of members and dollars will be significant enough to change policies is something we’ll just need to wait and see the outcome.

  • TheSkalawag929

    Where was the clergy’s opinion when this law was being debated along with the other stupid stuff this legislature passed? I’m not talking about inserting religion. I’m asking about them as respected leaders in their various communities. Where were they when their opinions could have made a difference? Showing up a day late and a dollar short is no help now.

    • Allan Richardson

      They were there, but the news never made onto the TV newscasts. I know, I was at some of those rallies, clergy and family members of those who had been killed spoke, the TV stations sent camera operators and reports, but usually they never got on the air, or got 10 seconds of video while the news reader mentioned that they were there, while several minutes were devoted to the other side.

      • TheSkalawag929

        I was at a few of those rallies too. It goes to show who the media and the politicians listen to. It seems that our voices won’t be heard until we start showing up at the ballot box in greater numbers and start voting out the politicians that refuse to listen to us.

  • anthonyamerica

    I can’t figure out why some people got upset when I parked my Tank; at Pizza hut;
    I’m trying to purchase missiles for maximum protection of my home, ran into a few road blocks, trying the black market next.
    Got a lot of compliments on my 50 cal. bunker in my front yard.
    I wonder if I can get grants from the government to upgrade my arsenal?

    • ralphkr

      During WW2 my father was assigned the task of keeping the German army from crossing the little bridge at East side of our farm in the Midwest. He was rather ticked off that they expected him to accomplish this with just a rifle and his personal accurized 1911 .45. He pointed out to the people who had given him this job that he had a perfect firing point for a 50 cal machine gun (his favorite from when he had been a machine gunner in WW1) but the ranking authorities kept their machine gun to protect the court house which had no strategic value.

      • Allan Richardson

        And he never got to take his bullet out of his pocket, did he?

        • ralphkr

          One does not carry .50 bullets in a pocket but insert them in a belt and carry them in a box.

          Actually, at that time I thought they were making too much of that little bridge because all the Germans would have to do would be go a couple miles north to hit solid ground. If it were in the fall our bottom land would be firm enough to support tanks and not need to use the bridge..

          • Allan Richardson

            Sorry I didn’t make the satire more explicit; I was referring to the fact that your dad was being treated the way Sheriff Andy treated the overexcited Deputy Barney Fife, on the Andy Griffith Show. Barney was issued a gun, but only one bullet he had to keep in his shirt pocket. Some of the funniest episodes had scenes in which Barney asked Andy if it was time to get his bullet out (but he never had to).

            I was not implying that your dad was on a level with Barney, of course, only that he was treated that way. And the Germans never got anywhere CLOSE to invading the continental US, so the guards protecting our inland bases were practicing more than anything else (and of course, keeping the odd individual or small group from infiltrating the base to commit sabotage; was the base located in Pennsylvania Dutch country by any chance?). If there really WAS a German invasion, the Army would have had a division of tanks behind his back before he even saw a German.

            Sorry for the confusion. You can see reruns of the show I cited, starring Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ronnie Howard (future Oscar-winning director), and Bea Benaderet, on TV Land on cable and possibly on a local independent station in your area.

          • ralphkr

            That comment about bullet in pocket did seem vaguely familiar but it did not click as from that show since I either did not have a TV or was working nights when the show was broadcast but have seen some reruns. By the way, it was not the Sheriff but the defense authorities telling my Dad what to do to defend our farm.

            There were some some bases in our state, upper Midwest, but we were nowhere near them or near Pennsylvania. Our state had been settled by about equal numbers of Germans & Scandinavians and I suppose the wheels picked my dad because A) he had been a machine gunner in the US Army in WW1, and 2) because his father had come from Prussia and we all know how all Prussians are military officers. (where is sarcasm font when you need it)

            Considering that the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers would be much better lines of defense than some unnamed crick the whole thing seemed the decision of scared administrators. You know, if the Germans HAD been able to invade the US and HAD made it across 1,500 miles of the US it is highly unlikely that the US Army would have many tanks left since most of the factories were in the East.

  • elw

    It is a dangerous and stupid law that will cause pain and suffering for the people of Georgia. It does nothing to protect the life and property of the non-gun carriers in the State and it makes law enforcement’s job much harder. Georgia is being changed into the old Wild West as we watch.

  • Pretty soon Georgia will allow “locked and loaded” into hospitals and ERs. In that manner, disgruntled patients and family members can stand their ground against hapless doctors and nurses. At least, the latter, when shot down, won’t have far to travel when they need to get to the ER

    • ralphkr

      Over the decades, libdoc, I have met more than one nurse who was scary enough without her having a gun.

  • Floyd Frisch

    Apparently the Baptists of the southern variety are cheering at the expansion of the gun law in Georgia. Nice to see some push back from the Roman Catholics, the Jewish Faith and mainline churches like the Episcopal Church. Maybe it will clarify who are the REAL majority in matters of faith and practice.

  • Allan Richardson

    Considering how theological disputes were settled in the past (Spanish Inquisition, mutual excommunication by the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople over the word “Filioque” in the Creed, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France, Calvin and Wesley debating predestination, etc.), I think a church may be the worst place to carry guns.

  • Okay, I can only say this: As a licensed and ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Denomination, and a former Georgia Baptist, I have got to wonder what was on the minds of the leadership in the Convention? They know full well and good that churches, at times, can end up with such bitter conflict, especially with regards to running a preacher off; especially when he preaches what members “don’t wish to hear.” How they can assume such a position, when they know this information is beyond my comprehension.

    Case in point: I was a pastor of a church up in Northern Georgia whereby one of the Deacons on the Search Committee did not wish to extend an offer of employment to me, due to his belief the “church was paying me too much.” That deacon made my life a living nightmare, and to spare everyone all of the details, suffice it to say that the leadership consistently tried to control the church by invoking the bylaws versus God’s Word. As a result, I asked the Leadership of said church whether we were bound to the Bylaws and Constitution in ALL matters, only for them to agree. I also pointed out that each of the Deacons serving on the Board had over-extended their stay, according to said bylaws and constitution by seven years and told them we would elect new deacons. A metaphorical fire was lit by such action only for one half of the church led by this specific deacon to schedule a meeting without notice to the church writ large in an attempt to vote me out as pastor. The motion failed, but the tenacity of that opposition did not, with threats being made to “burn the parsonage,” along with the comment that “You’ll go out of this Church, in a box, feet first.”

    The Convention is fully aware of issues just like this taking place in their churches the state over, and why they would adopt the doctrine of autonomy of the church on this issue fails to meet responsible leadership in the State Convention. To argue that Churches can now determine on their own whether they wish to have guns in their sanctuaries, is in itself a failure of leadership, delegating that matter to the local church, which I might add, if they are trying to get rid of their pastor, one can only imagine what tactics would be engaged in to rid the church of such pastors.

    Imagine churches with pastors now fearful to preach what God has laid on their hearts only due to member’s capability to carry a firearm into the sanctuary, especially if the leadership of that local church does not wish to deal with the matter.

    This is a tragedy waiting to happen! Trust me! I am sorely disappointed in the Georgia Baptist Convention and awfully glad I no longer stand behind what I used to consider one of the most beautiful state’s pulpit.