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CCW and Churches: Does the state have a role to play?

Updated on August 15, 2012

Our Constitution makes it very clear that there should be a hands off approach to any entanglement between government and churches. The Supreme Court has amplified it though the years and the lawmakers have pretty clear direction that if they make any laws impacting churches there must either be

(1) a darn good reason why, or

(2) that the law impacts generally everyone the same way and that the churches' religious charter has nothing to do with the law (i.e., safety codes allowing certain maximum occupation of a building based on size).

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 states this in no uncertain terms much to the dismay of a number of local governments who have been successfully sued for their overreaching laws.

A church is a 501(c)3 charity, the same as thousands of other charities. These range from the local animal shelter to the "Ladies of the Green Hat Society." There's nothing special about being a 501(c)3, it's just a way to notify the Federal government that one is a tax-exempt organization.

Yet, of the thousands of 501(c)3 types in many states, the legislation specifically singled out only one type, churches, as being off limits to CCW holders.

Many of these states also ban CCW holders from schools, bars, and other places but these almost always have some connection with the state... they are regulated in some fashion or another, and answer to the state for certain aspects of their business. This nexus simply does not hold true for churches.

The sole reason that the legislature picked the churches out from all the other charities to ban CCW on the premises is simply because of religious reasons. Someone, somewhere, thought it would be an offense against God for a CCW holder to carry in a church.

This was made very clear when Michigan was considering CCW. The quote from the Metro Times makes this very clear:

"Tom Hendrickson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, says the idea of mixing guns with religion and liquor doesn't make his day. " ‘Law enforcement is of the opinion that these are places where people shouldn't be armed.' "

Mr. Hendrickson can only justify his comments about churches via ultimately appealing to an argument based upon religious views concerning the "sanctity" of the church. Without the sanctity argument, there is no uniqueness to a church as an organization that requires or demands special treatment in this particular law.

If there was any actual reason it would logically apply equally to every other charity which holds group meetings, and the law would then have been written to also cover them.

It is not up to the state to determine what behaviour a church member must discuss with, and seek approval from his pastor, or what the state-mandated default position a church should have concerning the theological question of self-defense.

Since this portion of the law cannot be justified under either condition (1) or (2), or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 it is clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment. I cannot imagine a court holding this section up for approval.

Churches should not be mentioned in any CCW law, period. If the law provides that any private organization or business may post or otherwise observe a "gun free" environment, then any church would fall under the same regulation under condition (2) listed above. They have full freedom along with every other organization to determine their own philosophy towards this issue.

I invite you to browse around and look at some of my other hubs. I am sure that you will find something of interest to you.


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    • profile image

      Coowallsky 7 years ago

      pfuller and Mark Knowles are by-products of poor education systems.

    • profile image

      Mike 9 years ago

      Wow that Canadian guy does not speak for me I've been mugged and robbed and assaulted several times. I live in a relatively nice area of Toronto and all that happened to me in upper middle class neighbor hoods. I am all for a CCW in Canada it's sad that many American states have recognized my RIGHT to self defense but my own country puts me at will to the criminals. I will likely be applying for several US states CCW permits with in a years time once I get everything sorted out.

    • profile image

      Terrell Prude' Jr. 9 years ago

      pfuller, The fact that you're Canadian has nothing to do with it. It likely has more to do with the fact that you've not had bad people try to do harm to you. One of my parents (a racial minority) has, and his sidearm has saved his life several times.I suggest that any other "pfuller" type people here read the "Autobiography of a Handgun" story that is available on this site. My S&W isn't a .38 special like that firearm, but rather a .44 magnum loaded with .44 special, and I am thankful that I have it. As a racial minority, I hope that it won't have to save my life someday...but should that situation happen, I'm ready. Should someone break into my home and violate the sanctity thereof...I'm ready.And by the way, I'm way, way liberal. A San Francisco liberal (born & raised). A card-carrying member of the Free Software Foundation. And a gun owner. And an NRA member. Why? Precisely *BECAUSE* I'm a liberal. Yes, *because*--not in spite of. Here's what I mean.

    • profile image

      Guns Save Lives 9 years ago

      Out of all the states that allow law-abiding citzens with a license, how many 'accidents' have there been? Can you name even 1? How many of these people (law-abiding citezens) have you heard that have suddenly lost their mind and began shooting up the church?

      If anything, the topic of faith can stir up strong emotions especially when a church leader or layman says something you don't agree with. With liberal 'logic' there should be accidents and shootings at churches every week.

      For those that want to read real-life accounts of law-abiding citizens protecting themselves with a gun check out the Keep and Bear Arms site They post daily articles from newspapers around the country.

    • dlarson profile image

      Dan 10 years ago from Priest River, ID

      I had no idea that concealed carry was illegal in churches anywhere in the US! Thanks for the heads-up on this one! I'll be sure to ignore this unconstitutional law as I have those stupid laws prohibiting me from carrying in State or Federal Parks.

      Like I would EVER work in the Great Bear Wilderness of Montana without a handgun? In fact, while so doing, the U.S. Forest Service district manager ENCOURAGED us to carry handguns into the back can bet your life he did!

    • profile image

      MadRocketScientist 10 years ago

      Not every defensive use of a handgun involves a shooting or a news article. Many times merely displaying a firearm will cause a criminal to flee, and despite the advice of many responsible gun owners, not every person who brandishes a firearm to halt an attack takes the time to file a complaint with the local police.

      Still, the 1.5 million statistic comes from surveys of people and police departments, it is an estimate, and as such it has been reported to be as low as 400,000 and as high as 2.5 million, depending on which study you look at.

      That being said, only 0.01% (30,000) of the US population is killed by a gun every year, half are suicides, and the other half are mostly criminals killing other criminals. Seems to me the good far outweighs the bad.

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thanks for the stats above, but 1.5 million to 1,000 sounds kinda slanted to me :)I live in Toronto and and just recently our mayor put forward a resolution to ban handguns in our city. At first I thought "why pick on the wrong group" until I found out that 45% of the handguns consficated or used in crimes were obtained by those who could legally own them. Turns out they either misplaced them or they were stolen.

      Just because I do not approve of handguns in any situation does not mean I am trying to take your rights away. The fact is it is your right, but it does not stop the government from regulating handguns.Having to carry a handgun for protection is a reality, but it is still a sad reflection on society.

    • troylaplante profile image

      troylaplante 10 years ago from Selma, NC

      I find it amusing that those who often quote, "Thou shalt not kill" fail to recognize its context. The Bible is full of justified killings. Taking a life in defense of a life is not murder and therefore not contrary to the Commandment. The Commandment's context and meaning is "You shall not commit murder". One person I know actually attempted to justify the abolition of the death penalty with "Thou shalt not kill" while in the same discussion was defending abortion rights. My commentary was that God invented capital punishment in Genesis 9. Since it was God's invention, not man's, why would we attempt to over ride him, especially when Romans 13 says that the servant of God in the form of government does not bear the sword in vain. Furthermore, how is it ungodly to punish the guilty while protecting the innocent? To support abortion and eschew capital punishment is to save the lives of the guilty while slaughtering the innocent and being fine with that morality. The idea of carrying a gun to church or anywhere else for that matter, is to protect innocent life against those who would seek to take it. Since there are evil people in the world who would seek to destroy Godly people (men and women made in His image though rebirth), it is entirely appropriate to stand up and protect said life and resist evil. A church is not sacred ground. The Church is made up of people, not brick and mortar. It makes no difference to me where the saints meet. Saints are holy, buildings are not. Ergo, what difference does it make whether people carry concealed weapons to church? Life and death in this world, potentially, that is what. I see that Jack has a similar background as I. I also have years in Christian broadcasting, ministry, and in the love of firearms.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      "I am confused."

      We can tell...

      " Concealed Carry a gun, in a church? Is that what you are arguing for? "

      Yeppers. Spotted that right away, didn't you. And you thought you were confused.

      "Thou shalt not kill, but thou shalt conceal a gun? Is that correct?"

      Actually, you need to spend some time in Bible study to find out what it REALLY says. And what it really says it we shouldn't murder someone. And since I am not planning on murdering someone... what seems to be the problem that you're having?

      And, BTW... here's a story of a young lady who happened to be carrying in her church when a "real" murdering madman came in with a gun shooting people down in cold blood. She bravely stood in front of him with HER gun, and shot and stopped him. Her pastor said she may have saved the lives of a hundred people.

      But according to ~you~ she did a "bad thing"?

      "And 1.5 million people saved themselves because they were carrying a gun?"

      Yeppers... Isn't that wonderful news? Or do you personally find it disappointing to your world view?

      "And 1,000 accidental gun deaths is acceptable "collateral damage"? "

      When you figure out how to keep people from doing stupid and reckless things then please get back to us with the news. Far more people die in swimming pool accidents each year... should we fill all of them in with concrete?

      "Very Christian of you."

      I'm always content to let God decide... and until His name is Mark then I am not really worried about your opinion of my spirtuality. But one of us would have prefered that young lady to not have had a gun in church that day that she saved so many people -- and it's not ~me~.

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 10 years ago

      I am confused. Concealed Carry a gun, in a church? Is that what you are arguing for? Thou shalt not kill, but thou shalt conceal a gun? Is that correct?

      And 1.5 million people saved themselves because they were carrying a gun?

      And 1,000 accidental gun deaths is acceptable "collateral damage"?

      Very Christian of you.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      Well... according to the clinton dept. of justice about 1.5 MILLION people per year use a gun defensively to save themselves. Since all accidently gun deaths per year barely run to past 1,000 I would say you have a very poor hand to bet, eh.

      And I would think that innocent someone killed by any method would have had their rights violated. Guns don't kill people in a special, one of a kind way. And I am not sure where anyone has every said that killing an innocent is a "right." Perhaps you can find that for me.

      And if it is not MY gun that killed that innocent person then please explain to the world just how I "violated" their rights.

      The vast majority of gun deaths in America are centered around certain zip codes in major cities where the gangbangers are shooting it out over drug turf. Take those out of the picture and it drops, not to zero, but quite a bit.

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Again, your list analogy is so weak it is not worth commenting on.

      I can find more stories about accidental deaths from handguns than stories about someone saving themselves because they carried a concealed weapon. Every time someone innocent is killed by a handgun their rights have ultimately been violated. This is an example of where rights are not absolute. Whose right is more important, yours to carry your gun or the innocent person who is killed by one.

      I am interested in stats that back up your position though. I realize that the news media can be slanted in their reporting, but the stats on handgun deaths in the US are not very encouraging. I suppose if everyone carried a handgun then at least the possibly exists that more of the bad guys will be on the wrong end of the statistics.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      But you are on that list... right?

      And to quote you..."there is no reason for anyone here to own a handgun, let alone carry it on the street." That pretty much sounds to me as if you "have some sort of idea what rights people can and cannot have. "

      And yes... I do not view rights as something that I must ask for. "Can I have some more, please," said Oliver.

      And my rights continue as far as they go as long as no one is hurt by me. Please explain to us just how I am "hurting" some one or diminishing their rights by me owning or carrying a gun.

      Do you guarantee that those coming in "robbing" us will leave us in peace and just "go" or do you think perhaps they just might decide they don't want witnesses. Do you prefer to live at the mercy of a criminal?'s_Chicken_massa...

      And please explain why, with many multiple millions of CCW holders in America today and for the past many decades we've never once had the type of "everyone dies" scenario you postulate?

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Your argument is now becoming weak. I could also provide a derogatory list and put you on it as an example of those who favor handguns. You attack my position because you view it as if I am telling you what you can do, or need to do, or I have some sort of idea what rights people can and cannot have.

      Your position seems to be simple, "don't tell me what I can and cannot do". The fact is that you do not live in a community where you have absolute rights to do what you want. Rights are not absolute in a democracy.

      Which scenario would you prefer, one where a group comes in robs us and leaves, or one where one of the group pulls their concealed handgun and everyone dies. These are simplistic scenarios that do not further the argument.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      Let's take a little test, eh...

      Which of the following would prefer that the 110 secretary working late at night and crossing the dark parking lot to get to her car NOT have a concealed handgun tucked away for immediate use...

      1) A rapist

      2) A Sexual predator of any kind

      3) A carjacker

      4) A thug

      5) A gangbanger

      6) A wifebeater

      7) pfuller

      8) All of the above.

      Now... I'm not saying that you bear a similarity in any other way to those on the list... but you sure do have the same identical philsophy when it comes to determing just what people "need" in their lives.

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      It is not rights that I would like to see, it is your existing rights that the state needs to protect. For example, you should be free to choose your religion and not be held in that religion against your will. I have no doubt the CCW community is the most law abiding community, I just do not believe in the need to carry concealed weapons.

      Your point that the law discriminates because it aims at churches in my mind is absolutely right. But I would not go in the direction you would want, I would go in the direction that you cannot carry concealed weapons anywhere in public.

      But like I said, I live in Canada and there is no reason for anyone here to own a handgun, let alone carry it on the street.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      1) Which "rights" of those individuals are you speaking of? Please list and define them. Are they found in any particular religion, philosophy, or historical documents concerning rights? Give appropriate cites.

       Or are they really just a list of "what pfuller would like to see in society"?

       2) If I have a concealed weapon that is, you know, "concealed" then please explain just how I am affecting any of these alledged "rights" of any individuals? Unless they have x-ray vision just how are they going to know? Be specific.

      3) And why is the state singling out churches when there are thousands of outer venues where people gather that are not included in the places where one cannot carry?

       4) Are you aware that the CCW community is the most law abiding community in the states?

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I am a mixed bag, I like conservative ideas as they relate to the economy but I do favor liberal social ideals. As for religion, I absolutely believe in the concept of separation of church and state, but the state has a duty to protect the rights of all, and those rights supersede the teachings of the religion. In your example above, the state does not not the right to determine which bible or how communion is taken. However the state does have the power to protect the rights of individuals within the church.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      Depends upon who is doing the rewriting. Give the libs half a chance and we'll end up with a Constitution that Stalin would be proud of. And why do you think the state has the power to determine what the default postion of the church should be on anything? Does the state also have the power to determine which bible the church should use? Or how old one should be to take communion?

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Sorry to offend you, my only excuse is I am Canadian, but do you not think if they wrote the consitution today that they wouldn't slightly revise that section. Regardless, I have no problem with laws that state you cannot wear a concealed weapon in church.

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      So what ~you~ "approve"' of somehow get to determine what freedoms I have?

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      No document is ever perfect, but of course I was referring to the "right to keep and bear arms", so my mistake in writing quickly.  I can live with the rest of the document, sorry, I just remembered I am not too crazy about some of the rules of evidence either :)

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      Well. if you want to do away with the right to own a Bible, read a newspaper, be free from torture, and have your possessions rifled thru every other day by the authorities I guess we can say that the consitution has "no bearing to modern realities." But I would guess most people disagree with you.

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      The American mentality: the love fest with handguns created by a document written many years ago that has no bearing to modern realities.  But then again there are a lot worse things in life :)

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 10 years ago from The Midwest

      "I love the American metality. But if I lived there I would carry a gun everywhere I went too. "

      Would you carry a spare tire with you also while you were out driving? Please explain what your "yes" answer has to do with any "mentality."

    • pfuller profile image

      pfuller 10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I love the American metality.  But if I lived there I would carry a gun everywhere I went too.

    • profile image

      Shelton Heath 10 years ago

      Amen Dale Parker ! I am definitely with You on this one my brother.As Patrick Henry said,"Give me liberty,or give me death!'' I am proud to be a armed NRA Patron Member! Come and get me,all of You non law abiding criminals.Bang,bang,bang !

    • profile image

      Dale Parker 10 years ago

      The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed! What part of shall not do you not understand. Not may not but shall not!!!!!

    • profile image

      Paul E Rockhold 10 years ago

      I carry in church every sunday!! I recently went tasrget shooting with my former pastor. There was a church shooting in Texas where no one had a gun. Paul

    • profile image

      Uncle Lar 10 years ago

      Laws keep honest people honest, help them resist temptation if you will.

      Laws allow society to punish transgressors after the fact, and to a limited degree serve to discourage those individuals who might be thinking of breaking the law for fear of the possible punishment they might incur.

      Laws are about as effective as wet tissue paper against bullets to prevent a violent attack by a homicidal or crazy individual. They simply ignore the law and any associated punishment. The truly crazy ones couldn't care less as they fully expect to go out in a blaze of glory thumbing their noses at our legal system.

      Case in point is the maniac who decided he had a grievance against that church in Colorado. He shot several members at their school, then drove to their church the next day and shot two young ladies in the parking lot. He was entering the church itself to continue the carnage, armed with several weapons and a huge amount of ammunition when a church member who had volunteered to help with security after the earlier event drew her own firearm, shot, and wounded him. Unable to continue his rampage, he took his own life rather than be caught. If firearms had been banned from that church, would he have paid the slightest attention? Or would he have continued into a service of many hundreds of parishoners firing his weapons, killing or wounding dozens if not hundreds of innocent folk attending church.

    • profile image

      Lee McGee 10 years ago

      "I cannot imagine a court holding this section up for approval."

      Sir, apparently your imagination must not have recovered from the following SCOTUS rulings: 1] validity of the Biprtisan Campaign Reform Act (directly abridging free political speech), or 2] Kelo v. New London, CT (negating property ownership for a possible increase in tax revenue)

    • profile image

      David M. Bennett 10 years ago

      Jack, you are exactly right. Someone needs to challenge this law specificaly, or better yet, the legislature needs to eliminate all pistol-free zones altogether as they do nothing but provide the criminally insane assurances that they will meet no resistance from unarmed and helpless citizens.

    • profile image

      David M. Bennett 10 years ago

      Jack, you are exactly right. Someone needs to challenge this law specificaly, or better yet, the legislature needs to eliminate all pistol-free zones altogether as they do nothing but provide the criminally insane assurances that they will meet no resistance from unarmed and helpless citizens.


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