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June 23, 2003 ELCA News Service
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ELCA Bishops Support Lawsuit Against Concealed Weapon Law

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Statement by the Bishops

Chicago (ELCA)-JAC* — Six Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishops in Minnesota made a public statement June 19 supporting a lawsuit filed by the Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina, Minn. The lawsuit against the state of Minnesota is an attempt to have concealed weapons banned from church-owned property.

The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003, referred to as the "conceal and carry law" took effect on May 28 and allows concealed firearms to be carried into nongovernmental buildings by individuals who have applied for and received concealed weapon permits. For establishments — including churches — to keep firearms out, signs must be prominently posted at each entrance stating that concealed weapons are not allowed. According to the provisions in the act, church properties are considered private establishments or establishments in which concealed firearms are allowed unless otherwise posted.

The six bishops are the Rev. Rolf P. Wangberg, Northwestern Minnesota Synod; the Rev. Peter Strommen, Northeastern Minnesota Synod; the Rev. Paul A. Ranum, Southwestern Minnesota Synod; the Rev. Craig E. Johnson, Minneapolis Area Synod; the Rev. Peter Rogness, Saint Paul Area Synod; and the Rev. Harold L. Usgaard, Southeastern Minnesota Synod.

"We believe the presence of firearms on Lutheran church property, unless carried by government peace officers on official business or on land designated for hunting purposes, is entirely inconsistent with the Lutheran church's theology, mission and worship practices," the statement said.

In the statement the bishops expressed concern for "government interference" in the church and urged lawmakers to reconsider the legislation. "We urge members of our synods to express their concerns to lawmakers, and, more importantly, to recognize in this issue the occasion to reflect on our stewardship of the society God has given us," the bishops said.

Since filing the lawsuit, the Edina Community Lutheran Church has found it is not alone. It has been joined by the Minnesota Roman Catholic bishops, the Episcopal Church and other churches which are attempting to keep guns off church properties, according to the Associated Press and Episcopal News Service releases.

"Plaintiffs sincerely believe, based on their religion, that the presence of firearms on church property, including in the church parking lot, is inconsistent with their commitment to peacemaking and nonviolence," said attorneys for Edina Community Lutheran Church in the lawsuit filed May 20.

* Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. This summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media production.