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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Says Churches May Ban Guns From Premises

ST. PAUL (CN) - A Minnesota appeals court struck down provisions of a state law allowing people to have guns on church property. The court upheld an injunction against enforcing the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2005 within churches.

Before churches canoust agun-toting worshipper, the law requires them to post signs at every entrance "that conform to specific requirements" or personally inform each person that guns are prohibited.

The law also bars churches from banning guns in their parking lots or from prohibiting their members from having guns on church property.

The Edina Community Lutheran Church and the Unity Church of St. Paul challenged the statute, claiming it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The state shot back with the argument that exempting churches from provisions of a law that apply to all other private establishments violates the separation of church and state.

The court found for the churches, ruling that the state's interest in public safety does not outweigh the churches' right to freely exercise their religious beliefs."

The state presented no evidence "that denying an exemption to religious institutions would result in the victimization of citizens at church functions, in church parking lots, or in church building areas used by tenants," Judge Minge wrote.

"Some might argue that because conflicts over religious differences have occasionally led to volatility and violence, guns should be banned on church property. Others might argue that churchgoers are less likely to be targeted by those who disagree with their views if there is at least the possibility that congregants are armed.

"We need not decide which view is more persuasive, because the record before us simply does not include any evidence that permitting these respondents to ban guns on church property is inconsistent with the articulated state interest in public safety."

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