State churches have leeway under handgun law
Minnesota churches aren't bound by a state law requiring them to either post a sign or verbally inform people that concealed handguns are barred from their parking lots and sanctuaries, a judge has ruled.
Minnesota churches aren't bound by a state law requiring private property owners to either post a sign or verbally inform people when concealed handguns are barred from their parking lots and sanctuaries, a judge has ruled.
Hennepin County District Court Judge William Howard issued a permanent injunction Tuesday freeing religious institutions from the law's requirements. He extended a temporary order put in place by another judge last year.
"The state simply has no answer for the plaintiffs' contention that a secular sign on their front door infringes on their religious beliefs. Thus, the signage requirement, as written, infringes on the plaintiffs' freedom of conscience,'' Howard wrote in his ruling.
David Lillehaug, a lawyer for an Edina church that was part of the case, said the injunction is the latest in a string of rulings made in favor of religious institutions.
"Religious institutions have the complete right to ban firearms from their properties and to notify others of the ban as the religious institutions see fit,'' he said. "The rules that apply to commercial property don't apply to religious institutions.''
The handgun law allows people at least 21 years old with a clean record, no mental illness and proper training to get a permit to carry a gun.
Property owners that want to keep guns out must give notice individually to people entering their buildings or put up a specifically worded sign.
Gun-carrying people who defy a sign face a petty misdemeanor and possible fine of $25.
The lawsuit challenged a 2005 law the Legislature passed to replace a 2003 version struck down by the courts on a technicality. The earlier law required businesses, churches and property owners to use both forms of notification if they wanted to ban guns.
Prior to 2003, local law enforcement authorities had more say over who received a permit.
The Edina Community Lutheran Church and the Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, which were involved in challenges to the earlier version, said the newer law still interfered with religious beliefs. They said the requirements dictated how they communicate with members, visitors and employees.
A spokeswoman with the state attorney general's office wouldn't say whether the state would appeal the decision. Amy Brendmoen said the office was reviewing the decision and considering its options.