May 2004 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A Minnesota court has ruled that a portion of the state's recently enacted "conceal and carry" gun law violates the religious liberty rights of houses of worship.

Hennepin County District Judge Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum ruled March 16 that houses of worship must be released from certain provisions of the gun-permit law and may ban firearms from their buildings, parking lots and day-care facilities. Rosenbaum said the gun-permit law violates the churches' "free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution."

Rosenbaum's ruling followed a decision in January by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that allowed houses of worship to challenge portions of the gun law. The provision in question precluded private establishments, including churches, from prohibiting persons with "conceal and carry" permits from bringing firearms onto their property.

The Edina Community Lutheran Church challenged the law in court on grounds that it infringed on free exercise of religion. More than 200 other religious organizations have joined the lawsuit. The religious groups argued that the gun law's notification requirements were too burdensome. Specifically, houses of worship would be required to post detailed signs and issue verbal warnings to parishioners at the door about a prohibition on firearms.

State Rep. Lynda Boudreau (R), a sponsor of the gun-permit law, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the Edina Com­munity Lutheran Church v. State of Minnesota ruling is not the final word on the law.

"It's premature to make conclusions until it works its way through the court system," she said.

David Lillehaug, an attorney representing the houses of worship, described the decision as a "big victory for these congregations that believe that the presence of firearms is inconsistent with their mission of peacemaking and sanctuary."