Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Louisiana Bishops Rebuff New State Gun Law: “We Don’t Think It’s Appropriate To Have Guns In Churches”


Earlier this month, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed a bill into law that allows people to bring concealed weapons into places of worship. Anyone who passes a background check and completes “eight hours of tactical training each year” can be designated “as part of a security force” for “churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship” that allow carriers of concealed weapons. USA Today reported this week that Catholic churches in Louisiana will still not permit congregants to bring guns to their services:

Concealed handguns won’t be allowed in Roman Catholic churches, despite a new state law allowing them.

“We don’t think it is appropriate to have guns in churches,” Danny Loar, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops — the church’s public policy arm in Louisiana, said Monday.

Bishops discussed the issue when reviewing bills, Loar said.

“The bishops decided that, if the bill became law, the bishops would let their pastors know that this would not be permissible in Catholic churches,” Loar said.

The previous law let only law enforcement officials carry concealed weapons into churches.

Local faith leaders began speaking out against the proposal even before it became law. In June, Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond said, “Church is supposed to be a place of sanctuary. The idea of guns there — I’m pretty skeptical.”

And, even though the bill’s principal champion, state Rep. Henry Burns (R), claimed that the new policy would make houses of worship in “declining neighborhoods” safer, local clergy deny that concealed weapons would be any help. “We’ve been here 29 years, and there’s never been a time that a gun would have solved anything,” said John Pierre, a church elder in “a gritty Central City neighborhood.” Reverend John Raphael, whose congregants “had to duck for cover when gunfire suddenly broke out nearby” after one Sunday service, still “said an armed presence in the sanctuary is incompatible with what a church is supposed to be.”

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