Utah religious leaders say "no" to registration regarding guns

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December 23, 2003

Asserting First Amendment rights, several Utah religious leaders declared today their houses of worship are off limits to concealed weapons even if those weapons are carried by state permit holders.

"Guns have no place in holy spaces. We do not need the State of Utah to give us permission to make such a statement or hold such a position," declares a statement drafted before a news conference held December 21at All Saints Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.

"We will not register with the State of Utah any of our parishes, synagogues, meeting houses, chapels, or any other holy space we preserve for the good of God's world and all of God's people," reads a statement signed by leaders of several Protestant, Catholic and Jewish congregations in the state.

A recently adopted state law requires religious institutions to register with a state agency in order to ban weapons from their property. Today's action essentially claims that, on constitutional grounds, the Utah state government has no jurisdiction over the property rights of religious communities.

"We find this action [of registering our congregations] offensive and in violation of our rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that separates the church and state. The privilege of carrying a weapon in public is not more important that our First Amendment rights," asserts the statement.

"Within our various religious traditions there are many differences. On this we stand together as a religious community, committed to non-violence and preserving our property as holy space for prayer, worship, peace and sanctuary," the statement concludes.

Among the 31 religious leaders signing the statement were: Bishop George Niederaur of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah; Rabbi Tracee Rosen, Congregation Kol Ami, Salt Lake City; Rabbi Joshua Aaronson, Temple Har Shalom, Park City, Utah; and the Rev. David Henry, Presbyterian minister.