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Federal court: Ga. may ban guns in church

Jan. 25, 2011 at 9:35 PM   |   Comments

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MACON, Ga., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A federal court in Georgia upheld a state law banning guns in places of worship because practicing a religion does not involve carrying a firearm.

U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal in Macon Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by gun-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org and the minister at the Baptist Tabernacle in Thomaston, challenging the U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer to let states and municipalities legislate their own laws regarding firearms possession, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Georgia changed its law in compliance with the high court's ruling, allowing guns at "public gatherings," but prohibiting firearms in specific places, including houses of worship, the Journal-Constitution said.

Plaintiffs said church members' attempts to practice their faith was "impermissibly burdened" by Georgia's 2010 law.

Royal said Georgia law violated neither the First Amendment right to religious freedom nor the Second Amendment's right to bear arms in maintaining that guns may not be carried in churches, synagogues and mosques.

"In very large part, my motivation to carry a firearm as a matter of habit derives from one of my Lord's last recorded statements at the Last Supper, that, 'Whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.' I believe that this injunction requires me to obtain, keep and carry a firearm wherever I happen to be," the Web site's president, Ed Stone, said.

The judge said churchgoers could leave their guns in their cars or temporarily surrender their firearms with security or management at the church door.

Regarding the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of Baptist Tabernacle, Royal said he could keep a gun in his church office with permission from the church management.

State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, filed a bill Monday to remove places of worship from the list of gun-prohibited locations.

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