State Seal of Alabama

State Seal of Alabama Public domain

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.

Categories: Beliefs

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

9 Comments

  1. samuel Johnston

    I live in Shelby County Alabama, within rock throwing distance of these locations. I have a concealed carry permit. Swaggering around with your .44 on your hip is infantile. Taking it into a polling place is bad judgment, and bad manners.
    Attorney General Luther Strange is not my favorite, but he is an astute politician.
    My money is on Luther Strange and the churches.
    Don’t you remember the episode in “The Wire” when one gangster was taking his aged grandmother to church, and a rival gangster shot her hat off in an assassination attempt against gangster number one? The would be assassins were disgraced and had to buy the old lady a new hat. THEY BROKE THE RULES!
    The gun lobby will come in second in this gun fight. We do have values down here – strange as they may be.

  2. Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your blog.
    You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d
    absolutely love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link
    back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested.

    Cheers!

    • samuel Johnston

      Hi Didas,
      Alabama policeman are required to carry guns at all times, on and off duty. Off duty police are carrying concealed weapons. This rule is for the safety of both the police and the public. Unfortunately, criminals do not respect either.

  3. Chaplain Martin

    My wife and I now live in Lee County in retirement. We moved from Georgia, but they are now equally as bad. We have a good sheriff here in Lee County, may the Lord protect him and his officers as he enforces the first amendment against what some believe the second allows them to do.
    The funerals I have attended and/or conducted in Georgia the Law Officers usually locked their weapons in their car trunks but at least one officer stayed at the lobby area of the church I don’t know if he was armed.
    The churches are offering their faculties as a service, if people only want to vote while openly carrying intimidating fire arms then the counties can find another place for them to worship.
    No state has the right to make a law that places of worship must allow people to be admitted carrying fire arms.
    Openly carrying weapons to polling places means intimidating citizens to the point of their leaving the line because they know the “cowboys white guys” don’t wont “Colored” people to vote at all.

  4. samuel Johnston

    Unfortunately, because of our well known history of racial politics (George Wallace, et al),
    some choose to see all of our bad behavior as racially motivated. The “gun rights” folks cross political, class, and even racial lines. Black on black gun violence is also scandal, and guns in public schools are a most serious problem, but even so, I find Chaplin Martins remarks un-understandable.
    As Mark’s article illustrates, this “cowboy” behavior has not gone unchallenged, and the challenge has come from “white guys” not “colored” people.
    To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  5. Chaplain Martin

    I should have proof read my remarks much better. What I meant to write is: If the gun carriers want to vote in a place that allows fire arms then the counties should find another place on them to vote and not violate freedom of churches to deny them admittance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.