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Church files lawsuit over conceal carry law
The Edina Community Lutheran Church is suing the state of Minnesota to have sections of the concealed carry law declared unconstitutional. The "Personal Protection Act" passed this session is scheduled to take effect next week. It requires sheriffs to issue handgun permits to any law abiding, mentally competent person over the age of 21.

St. Paul, Minn. — Edina Community Lutheran Church officials say in a few days they'll post a sign that'll read, "Blessed are the peacemakers; firearms are prohibited in this place of sanctuary." Pastor Pam Fickenscher of the Edina Community Lutheran Church said church members took a poll during last Sunday's service and unanimously decided to file a lawsuit challenging the conceal carry law.

"It's our belief that a church -- and our building, our mission and our worship services and all the activities that we carry on here -- are to be a place of peace and sanctuary, a place where people feel safe and of non-violence," says Fickenscher.

Former U.S. Atttorney David Lillehaug, who represents the Edina church, says the new law violates the Minnesota Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom by infringing on the church's ban against firearms.

"If you want to keep firearms out of the building, according to this law, you have to put up signs in language dictated by the state," says Lillehaug. "And then the ushers -- instead of greeting people at the door with the message of welcome and peace -- they have to tell worshippers coming in, 'Drop your guns.' That is state interference with the practice of religion, and the church shouldn't have to abide by it."

The Attorney General's office, which defends state laws in court challenges, said it's reviewing the lawsuit but declined to comment further.

University of St. Thomas law professor Thomas Berg says in Minnesota, churches can argue under some circumstances they should be exempt from the law because it interferes with their religious freedoms.

For example, there was an Amish case years ago. The state Supreme Court ruled the Amish did not have to abide by a state law requiring the display of bright orange reflectors on their buggies, because it conflicted with their religious beliefs.

Berg says if the case reaches the point that the state has to show there's a real necessity for the concealed carry law to apply to churches, the state will have a difficult time.

"This law, as everyone can see, is just riddled with exceptions. There are all kinds of places where guns are prohibited. It would be hard for the government to say, we must allow people to carry guns in church parking lots, if there's 10 or 15 different kinds of places that guns are prohibited," says Berg.

The lawmaker who successfully pushed for changes in Minnesota's handgun law, Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault, says the lawsuit is unjustified and based on unfounded fear.

"None of the states have repealed these laws. Some have less restrictions than we have, and it's just not an issue. It's a non-issue. It's a lot of alarm about nothing," says Boudreau.

The concealed carry law takes effect May 28. The church says it has banned guns on all its property including the church, parking lot, day care center and playground.

The Edina Community Lutheran Church has invited other churches to join in the challenge to the law.

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