What happens when the irresistible force of gun rights meets the immovable object of religious liberty? Well, in the laboratory of democracy known as the State of Alabama, we may soon find out.
Here’s how it goes down.
Under Alabama’s new open carry law, counties don’t get to stop voters from wearing guns in a polling place, according to an opinion issued last week by state Attorney General Luther Strange. But, Strange averred, there are certain places where they can be so stopped, such as high security government buildings like courthouses and public schools–and also private facilities like churches. The latter may prohibit firearms on their premises even while serving the public purpose of letting voting take place there.
Strange’s opinion didn’t please John David Murphy, who on primary day last month was prevented by an officer of the law from wearing his holstered Glock 19 Generation 4 9mm pistol with two loaded 15-round magazines on his belt when he tried to vote at the First United Methodist Church of Alabaster. Nor did it please Robert Kennedy when the same thing happened to him at First Baptist Church of Pelham. A founding member of the gun rights group BamaCarry, Kennedy called the opinion “horrible” for taking the position that “private-property rights trump the right to an open poll.”
Well, tomorrow is primary runoff day in Alabama, and I’m thinking that some gun-toting Alabamian like Kennedy is going to be kept from exercising his or her franchise in a church polling station. And I expect a lawsuit will ensue, challenging the church’s firearms restriction on the grounds that–like a faith-based organization operating a government-funded program–it was performing a public function and shouldn’t be permitted to impose a rule of its own choosing in violation of the Second Amendment. And the church would insist on its First Amendment right of free exercise to prohibit firearms in God’s house.
In the State of Alabama, which side prevails? You be the judge. I’m betting on Amendment II.