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To: House Energy and Natural Resources Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: HB 1325 - Possession of a Firearm at a Church
Date: January 17, 2019

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes House Bill 1325.

Existing law allows an individual to have a firearm in a place of worship if the individual meets certain requirements and has permission from the church or place of worship. It is a workable law that allows firearms but does not negate the religious organization’s fundamental right to define their own sacred spaces.

House Bill 1325 erases that balance and allows the individual with a license under Chapter 62.1-04 to possess a firearm within the church space without the church’s permission. It destroys the carefully designed compromise and tosses aside the religious and property rights of the church.

Essential to the concept of religious liberty is the recognition that churches have a fundamental right to use and care for their properties in a manner that reflects and furthers their own religious missions. If they believe that guns in churches do not reflect that mission, they have a right to prohibit them. Indeed, our country has many faith traditions, especially the so-called “peace churches,” that disavow all weapons, even for defensive purposes. Those churches might find offensive the very notion of a weapon within their worship space. They should have that right.

The great thing about religious freedom is that it means that we can practice our religious beliefs, including the acts of creating, designing, and exercising autonomy over our religious spaces. Some people have no problem with firearms in churches. To others the very idea is blasphemous. Many more probably fall somewhere in between. The existing law strikes a balance that respects the varying religious views on the matter.

We urge this committee to maintain the existing law and give HB 1325 a Do Not Pass recommendation.