Signs went up at Edina [Minn.] Community Lutheran Church when a new state handgun law went into effect May 28: "Blessed are the peacemakers. Firearms are prohibited in this place of sanctuary."
But the signs — at the front door and in the parking lot — break the very law this congregation of more than 600 members is contending violates the state constitution's guarantee of religious freedom. At presstime, a district court judge had delayed a ruling on the motion for a temporary restraining order against provisions of the law.
Known as the "conceal and carry" law, it drops the requirement that people demonstrate a need to carry a gun for their personal safety or for their job. As many as 50,000 new permits could be granted in the first year, according to state estimates. It also allows people to carry firearms into any private establishment unless signs that it "bans guns in these premises" are posted at all entrances and also "personally informs" people of the ban. However, it prohibits banning guns from parking lots.
Edina doesn't want guns in the church building or the parking lot and also objects to the required wording. So it put up the signs with the blessing of the Beatitudes. It also doesn't want to greet worshipers with a handshake and warning that guns aren't permitted. "That would not create a very hospitable attitude," said Pamela Fickenscher, a pastor of Edina. "We'd love to get a simple exemption for churches of these requirements."
Others who have joined the Edina suit include Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and other Lutheran churches; Jewish synagogues; and a Buddhist center. "It's gratifying to see so much support," Fickenscher says. "Publicly there's been a great deal of talk about what [the law] means about public life in our state. That's good, too. But [the effort] also has been exhausting for pastors. We're eager to get back to doing our work — preaching and pastoral care."
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