- (Photo Reuters/Ed Reinke/Pool)
Starting today, Wisconsin residents are allowed to take their concealed handgun nearly wherever they go, but Catholic bishops in the state are asking parishioners not to bring them into church.
"Intuitively, we understand that acts of violence, destruction, and murder are antithetical to the message and person of Jesus Christ and have no rightful place in our society, especially sacred places," said a statement by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and four other Wisconsin-based bishops.
"Whatever an individual parish decides to do regarding its policy on concealed weapons, we ask that all people seriously consider not carrying weapons into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces," the statement added.
Wisconsin's new law was signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to great applause by gun rights advocates because the new law makes Illinois the only state in the nation where it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon.
Although Wisconsin is one of the last states to allow concealed weapons, being allowed to have weapons in church is a right that gun rights advocates in several states are fighting for, including Georgia, where gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org (GCO) filed a lawsuit against the state for the right to pack pistols in the pew, the New York Times reported.
State lawyers argued that people should have the right to feel safe as they pray.
Nonetheless, a state law passed in 2010 allowed people to carry guns in any public space, excluding: state mental health facilities, courthouses, jails or prisons, and houses of worship.
Given that houses of worship are the only non-public property space on the list, GCO says that churches should not be excluded.
"We're not trying to force churches to allow guns in their sanctuary," said Kelly Kennett, a gun owner and president of Georgia Carry, told the Times. "Churches should be treated like any other private property owner. Why are you treating people at churches differently than how you'd be treated at a store, at a bank, at a club?"
Some faith leaders, such as the Wisconsin bishops, do not agree, says the Times.
"I think that by continuing to arm ourselves, we're perpetuating this cycle of violence that only ends up hurting the whole society," said Bradley Schmeling, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta. "And faith communities in particular should have the right to say no weapons in this place."
"It seems to me that churches and synagogues and mosques ought to be able to be places of peace," he said, "because our society needs that."