Should we start taking our guns with us to church?
The Family Research Council and the Liberty Institute cite 600 recent hostile attacks on people of faith. A black news service asks if worshipers need to arm themselves. And Wisconsin Sikhs mourn their dead.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
NBC, CBS, Fox and CNN news reporters as well as journalists from the New York Times, BBC, MSNBC, Time, the New York Daily News, USA Today and London’s Daily Telegraph targeted the quiet congregation and its local pastor, none of which expected the mob of reporters brandishing microphones and cameras.
From the pulpit, “We are wanting to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns,” the Rev. Pagano told the folks in the pews. “If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today.”
The press leveled both barrels at the earnest young clergyman. The New York Times went for the racial angle: “The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1 raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election.”
“A pastor in Kentucky is redefining the tradition of wearing your Sunday best to services by encouraging his congregation to strap on holsters and bring their weapons to church,” fired ABC’s Emily Friedman.
“The guns must be unloaded and private security will check visitors at the door,” reported the Associated Press.
“Pastor,” fired CNN’s John Roberts, “I was doing a lot of looking around this morning at the reaction to the event you had on Saturday night and some of the critics were asking things like ‘Would Jesus carry a weapon?’ And ‘What would Jesus think of a pastor who beat plow shares into swords?’”
“Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, an umbrella organization for 11 Christian denominations in Kentucky, said Christian churches are promoters of peace, but ‘most allow for arms to be taken up under certain conditions,’” reported MSNBC as if the council of churches was relevant, never mind that it only represents America’s smallest and most liberal denominations while the largest – such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, with which New Bethel Church is affiliated – shun the organization at the state, national and international levels.
So, is it a good idea to bring guns to church?
In Aurora, Colorado, a mass shooting occurred at a Century movie theater during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. There was no armed security guard on duty, according to officials. The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing with multiple firearms, killed 12 people and injured 58 others.
At the Family Research Council office in Washington, D.C., a similarly armed gunman was halted at the front door by the security guard – who was shot as he subdued the attacker, but prevented anybody else from being killed or wounded.
A few years ago, a grim-faced Martin Sheen, with an American flag behind him, appeared in a commercial attacking the idea of legislation that would allow individuals to carry "hidden handguns" in, among other places, churches.
"But, the truth is," observes the American Way website, "that making it legal to carry concealed weapons in churches is not as crazy as Sheen and his anti-Second Amendment, anti-self-defense friends at Handgun Control, Inc. would like us to believe.
"In September1999, Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, with two guns. He murdered seven people, injured seven others and then killed himself. Two video tapes showed Ashbrook calmly firing his guns. The Acting Police Chief of Ft. Worth, Ralph Mendoza, says these tapes show this cold-blooded murderer committing his massacre in a 'methodical manner,' standing there where he 'fired shot after shot after shot,' pacing back and forth.
"Ashbrook was able to carry out his slaughter at a leisurely pace. Why? Because none of his victims, or anybody else in the church at that time, were armed. Thus, they were sitting ducks and never had a chance.
"In 1993 the Rev. Michael R. Duesterhaus, a Roman Catholic priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia, woke up at 3 a.m. to the sound of someone breaking into his study. The priest took out a 9mm pistol, flipped on a light and ordered the intruder to freeze and lie on the floor. The intruder stopped and then reached for his belt. Deusterhaus fired. The man paused, apparently wounded, then ran into the hall. The priest pursued him and fired again, at his feet. The priest then fired a third time, deliberately wide of his target. The man ran out the side door escaping with a small amount of cash."
"The Washington Post noted that this incident "contrasts sharply" with the June, 2000, "brutal slaying" of Monsignor Thomas Wells at the Mother Seaton Catholic Church in Germantown, Maryland, who died after being repeatedly stabbed."
One priest was armed. The other was not.
"The idea of a priest or bishop owning a handgun shocks many Catholics," observed Washington Post staff writer Bill Broadway. "But some do, whether for hunting, target practice or self-defense, and church law allows it. But theologians and ethicists differ on whether priests should ever point a weapon at another person -- and fire.
"Duesterhaus, then 28, shot at the intruder, and he and three other priests living in the Holy Spirit rectory were unharmed. Wells, 56, who stayed alone in the rectory at Mother Seton Catholic Church, died after being stabbed repeatedly in a violent struggle.
"Would the outcome have been different if Wells had owned a handgun? John M. Snyder, 60, a Catholic layman and chief lobbyist for the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, believes so," wrote Broadway.
"On June 9, the day after Wells's body was found, Snyder released a statement saying Wells 'most likely would be alive today if he'd had a loaded handgun and knew how to use it.'
"Washington Auxiliary Bishop William E. Lori objected strongly," reported Broadway. "He called the suggestion that priests be encouraged to own handguns for self-defense 'unworthy of Monsignor Wells's memory.' The Rev. Aaron Joseph Coty, administrator of Mother Seton parish, finds abhorrent the idea that priests -- or anyone, for that matter -- own handguns. 'You don't need weapons to defend yourself,' he said. 'There are other ways. You can talk with the person, reason with the person, get into a fistfight.'
But the Rev. Robert J. Rippy, chancellor of the Diocese of Arlington, has a different view. "A priest, like any other citizen, has a right to self-preservation," he told the Arlington Catholic Herald after the Duesterhaus incident. "A person has a right to preserve their life from an unjust aggressor."