Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski and other area faith leaders spoke April 28 opposing a provision of Missouri House Bill 944, which allow concealed weapon permit holders to bring weapons into a house of worship without the permission of the congregation’s leader.
The bill passed the House on April 19 by a vote of 109-36. The bill has been introduced to the state Senate.
Among other provisions, the bill allows a concealed carry permit holder to lawfully carry firearms on public transportation and prohibits firearm business regulation. It includes what is known as Blair’s Law, which outlaws random gunfire in urban areas such as shooting guns in a New Year’s celebration.
Under current law, a person may not carry a concealed firearm into any church or other place of religious worship without the consent of the person representing the religious organization. Archbishop Rozanski and the other faith leaders stated that the legislation repealing that law, if passed, would infringe upon religious liberty by broadening the scope of the Second Amendment at the expense of the First Amendment
Archbishop Rozanski referenced the unity of the religious leaders who are addressing an important issue. “Our churches, shrines, temples, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are welcoming places of peace and prayer,” he said.
He sought bipartisan collaboration that supports and celebrates life instead of the proposed law, which also is opposed by the other Catholic dioceses in Missouri. “We need to work against the violence that we see making headlines daily and not invite the very weapons that make those headlines into our places of worship.”
Archbishop Rozanski encouraged legislators to speak to religious leaders before making laws that affect their congregations. “Please keep our places of worship free from these tools of violence and any signs of it.”
Later, answering a question about what happens if a shooter would come into a church, Archbishop Rozanski said that if a number of congregants were armed it could lead to shots fired across benches and seats, with more people hit by gunfire.
The Missouri Catholic Conference earlier testified in opposition to HB 359, which similarly concerned firearms in churches, arguing that current law properly recognizes churches as gun-free zones and that churches are free to arrange for security teams to provide protection from “active shooters.” The MCC also argued that requiring churches to post signs prohibiting guns on church property would infringe on the First Amendment right of churches to control their places of worship.
Rev. Traci Blackmon, associate general minister of justice and local church ministries with the United Church of Christ, called the proposal harmful to the common good and a removal of the autonomy of religious institutions to determine their safety. Bishop Robert T. Farr of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church said it should remain a church’s decision locally to decide who may or may not carry firearms into a church.
The other speakers included:
• Rev. Dr Linden Bowie, senior pastor of Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Missionary Baptist State Convention
• Bishop Deon Johnson of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
• Rabbi Amy Feder, senior rabbi of Temple Israel and president of the St Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association
• James Croft, leader of the Ethical Society of St Louis
• Rev. Charles Norris, pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church.
>> House Bill 944
To see a summary of HB944, visit https://bit.ly/3gJfTtB.
To track the bill’s progress, visit https://bit.ly/3b4ktzh.
See the Missouri Catholic Conference website for positions on this and other important public policy issues, https://mocatholic.org.