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Judge expands order on churches' rights to ban guns

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - A Hennepin County judge has expanded and extended an injunction that allows churches to ban firearms from their property in spite of the state's concealed-carry gun law.

District Judge Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum on Tuesday ordered that the temporary injunction she ordered in June be continued indefinitely, meaning it will remain in place until the issue is settled at trial.

Her latest order allows churches and religious organizations to ban guns not only from their parking lots and buildings but from licensed child care centers on their property and in space they lease to tenants, so long as the lease allows it.

"We're on a roll," said David Lillehaug, the attorney challenging the gun law on behalf of several churches. "That is a big victory for these congregations that believe that the presence of firearms is inconsistent with their mission of peacemaking and sanctuary."

The churches argue that the law's notification requirements constitute an unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom. The law required churches to both post signs - which were described in great detail - and verbally inform parishioners at the door that firearms were prohibited.

Joe Olson, who helped draft the law as leader of the group Concealed Carry Reform Now, said that expanding the order beyond the boundaries of the church itself is a significant change. "I think it's completely unwarranted because the earlier order and the case law is all based on the strength of the connection between the religious property and religious beliefs," Olson said. "In this case they are just landlords who happen to be religious people."

The case is just one part of a two-prong legal assault on the law. A broader attack is being launched in Ramsey County that seeks to overturn the entire law.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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