In tragedy after tragedy, it strikes at the heart of every American to see the painful images of destruction: a line of emergency vehicles, red and blue lights flashing, crime scene tape blowing in the wind, and in the background, a church.
Freedom of religion is deeply rooted in the American tradition. So much so the founding fathers thought a prohibition on government interference with the exercise of religion needed to be memorialized in the First Amendment.
We all know that the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are a constraint on government. But it is an important indicator of what we, as Americans, value. We value the freedom to exercise our religion without interference, no matter the source. But what value is that freedom if there is no mechanism for you to protect yourself and those whom you love?
Unfortunately, violence has frequently targeted religion. As long as there have been differences in religion, there have been people who want to kill those who worship gods other than their own or in a different manner. It is a cruel irony that in a country founded on the belief that people should peacefully worship without fear of government interference, they must live under the threat of being the victims of criminals.
Thankfully we have the Second Amendment. The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, and redress of government. To protect and guard these freedoms, our tradition holds the right to keep and bear arms; for as history shows us, without that right, there are no others.
One such voice is that of Richard Henry Lee, who stated in Federal Farmer, no. 18 in 1788, “[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms…”
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have recognized the threat of hostilities and mental cases. In response, they are increasing the presence of arms for their protection. Many church leaders have recognized, as most of us have, that when only seconds count, help is, unfortunately, minutes away. The fact of the matter is, our first responders cannot be everywhere all the time, and you are responsible for the safety, security, and liberty of yourself and those whom you love.
The law varies drastically from state to state as to whether you can possess a firearm in a church, synagogue, or other house of worship. It is your responsibility to know the law and follow it, and if you find the law does not serve to protect your rights, it’s your responsibility to change them.
Author: Richard D. Hayes II