Church Event Promotes Guns in Sanctuary

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There are certain places where guns are not allowed, even if you have a permit, and that includes the church.

However, a Louisville, Ky., pastor recently invited his congregation to bring their guns to church as a celebration of freedom.

Rev. Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church said the "Open Carry Celebration" was designed to promote firearm safety and honor the right to bear arms.

"There were many of our founding fathers who had a deep seated belief in God and respect for firearms," he said.

Dallas Southern, a deacon at the church, came with his 22 caliber Heritage Rough Rider.

"You can be Christian and still enjoy the sport of hunting or just enjoy shooting like me and my son," Southern said.

The day was about more than sport shooting.

As a former Marine who works part-time at a gun range, Pagano believes events like the Open Carry Celebration serve as a reminder that good guys with guns may be able to prevent the kind of violence that's become too common in churches.

There have been 18 U.S. church shootings in the past year alone and 50 deaths in the last decade.

"[That's] even more reason to have a security team or people [to] be able  to defend themselves," Pagano explained.  "Those are the places that some crazed individuals will come in and we'll be sitting ducks."

Currently, 20 states allow church-goers to carry weapons into a house of worship.  Now, recent church shootings have other states considering whether to follow suit.

Still, some say the sanctuary of a church is no place for firearms. 

"To have someone bring a gun into that kind of space and to lift it up as if it were a symbol  of goodness is horrific," said Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary.

New Bethel's insurance carrier didn't approve either.  The company declined to insure Pagano's event and refused to renew the church's policy.  A new insurance company stepped in to covered the "celebration," but insisted that all the guns be unloaded.

Pagano called the event a success at promoting both responsible gun ownership and the congregation's deep-seated respect for the Second Amendment.

*Originally published July 22, 2009

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