In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Session 2003
DocumentSession 2003
DocumentBudget and Taxes
DocumentHigher Education
DocumentK-12 Education
DocumentHealth and Welfare
DocumentPublic Safety
More from MPR
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Church argues for restraining order on concealed carry law
Larger view
Church officials sued over the part of the law that allows guns in privately owned buildings such as businesses and churches unless signs are posted at all entrances to let people know otherwise. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki)
At least 13 congregations of various faiths asked a judge on Thursday to allow them to opt out of portions of the newly-enacted concealed carry law. The churches asked for a temporary restraining order, arguing that the law infringes on their rights to ban guns on all of their property, including parking lots.

St. Paul, Minn. — The Hennepin County courtroom was standing room only. Seated among the lawyers, reporters and state legislators were people of the cloth, some wearing collars, some not.

Arguing on their behalf, attorney David Lillehaug told Judge Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum that the concealed carry law infringes on the churches' right to ban weapons on all of their property, not just in their houses of worship. He said the law also infringes on their right to inform visitors of their firearms ban in their own religious ways.

Deputy Attorney General Hilary Caliguiri represented the Legislature in the case. Judge Rosenbaum asked her why a church or business could ban firearms inside their buildings as long as they notified visitors, but they couldn't ban firearms from parking lots.

Caliguiri said the law is supposed to be applied as broadly as possible. Allowing additional entities to opt out of the law dilutes those rights and ultimately weakens the law. In addition, she said parking lots serve as a safe haven for gun owners to leave their guns in their vehicles if they realize the church or business does allow them to have guns.

Caliguiri said the churches really don't have a case. The state maintains that in order for them to bring this lawsuit, they have to show that they could face a threat of prosecution for disobeying the law. But since there's no enforcement mechanism in the law, she says, there's no harm. Caliguiri essentially said if the churches don't want to follow the law, they can choose not to and they won't face any penalties. After the hearing, Edina Community Lutheran Church Pastor Pam Fickenscher took issue with the state's contention that churches aren't directly harmed by the law.

"It puts the church in a very odd position. On the one hand saying either we obey the law and go against our religious beliefs about this being a place of sanctuary or we disobey the law which is also contrary about our belief about the way to be good citizens and people of faith in the larger society," she said.

At least two state legislators attended the hearing including the senator who authored the bill, Pat Pariseau. She urged the public to be tolerant of the rights of gun owners.

"We're asking that people who have differences of opinion on gun ownership and use, nobody's required to carry a gun, to own a gun, to use a gun in any way; that people who have differences of opinion on that be tolerant of those who are law abiding and doing law abiding activity by permitting the gun that they carry," she said.

University of St Thomas law professor Tom Berg says the case is interesting in that it reverses the roles of the usual political alignments.

"Liberals are relying on private property rights. The right of a business owner to keep guns off his or her property; the right to control my property and that's often a theme that you hear from conservatives," he said.

The judge said she'd rule as soon as possible but that wouldn't be until sometime next week. Judge Rosenbaum also said that when she does rule on the case, neither side should view it as a victory or defeat. She said the case is likely to weave its way through the appellate court system and could be a long legal process.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects