Firearms will not be permitted in buildings or on property of any Episcopal church anywhere in the state of Georgia, bishops of the two Georgia dioceses have said.
Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright and Diocese of Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase were responding to Gov. Nathan Deal’s April 24 signing of what is called the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014. Each sent letters to clergy and lay leaders last week.
The Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, which expands broadly where guns may be carried, takes effect July 1. Places of worship may allow the carrying of weapons, but that permission must be granted by the ecclesiastical authority which, in the case of the Episcopal Church, is the diocesan bishop.
Illegally bringing a gun into a house of worship will be considered a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. On-duty law enforcement officers will be exempt from the restriction.
Wright said his “judgment and this policy are based on the normative understanding of the teachings of Jesus as The Episcopal Church has received them,” in his letter. “This matter and I hope this policy afford us yet another opportunity to live the words we pray each week.”
Benhase wrote that in his judgment “firearms of any kind have no place in any of our church buildings.”
“If I am requested by a congregation to grant them permission, as the laws provides but does not require, I will not grant such permission,” he wrote. “In my judgment, the only people who are appropriately allowed to carry firearms in any of our church buildings are law enforcement officers who are on duty at the time.”
Benhase and Wright had previously issued a joint statement while the Georgia legislature was in session in March considering the bill decrying the measure and questioning the logic behind expanding gun-carry locations.
More than 200 Georgia faith leaders spoke against having guns in houses of worship during the March session.