Missouri Bishop Deon Johnson speaks out against bill to allow guns in churches – Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service] Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, Bishop of the Diocese of Missouri, along with other religious leaders in the St. Louis area, condemned a bill in state legislature that would allow people to carry hidden weapons in places of worship without permission.
Johnson was one of eight spiritual leaders representing Christian, Jewish, and ethical-humanist groups who spoke against Missouri House Bill 944 at a press conference organized by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis on April 28th.
“It is a sad honor to stand here with these religious leaders and to oppose a bill that should probably not see the light of day,” Johnson said at the press conference, arguing that “guns have no place in places of worship.” .
The bill is a Republican-sponsored move to lift restrictions on the carrying of guns in public. Currently, Missouri law requires citizens to obtain permission from the supervising clergy before bringing a weapon into a place of worship. HB 944 would override this requirement and allow anyone with a hidden permit to carry weapons to bring a weapon into a church, synagogue, or mosque without asking for permission. Religious organizations that do not want guns on the property would have to put up signs stating that they are not allowed on the property.
“We shouldn’t have to do this,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, who convened the press conference, saying lawmakers should have consulted religious leaders before proposing the bill. “Please keep our places of worship free of these tools of violence and any signs of them.”
The bill, which also allows guns for public transport and lowers the age for covert gun permits from 19 to 18, was passed by an overwhelming majority by the State House and is now before the Senate.
Johnson and the other faith leaders said the bill made dangerous and violent situations more likely and created a culture of fear.
“[The] The second right of amendment does not override my right and the right of people of faith “to worship safely,” Johnson said.
He and others cited mass shootings in recent years, such as the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Johnson said he has had the names of Sandy Hook victims in his heart ever since.
“The list of those who have lost their lives to guns in mass shootings, everyday shootings and suicide since 2012 is long and growing every day,” he said. “316 people are shot dead in this country every day. Every single day. And 106 of them die every day. “
Johnson is a member of Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence, which has been campaigning for gun control and reform since its inception after the Sandy Hook shootings. Other members of the network have also spoken out against other bills that would make it easier to carry weapons in public. Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Northern Indiana Bishop Doug Sparks wrote to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb in April urging him not to sign any bill that would require permission to take effect of guns in Indiana. That bill didn’t make it out of the Senate.
Regarding Missouri law, Johnson and the other faith leaders urged lawmakers to step back and speak to the clergy who will be hardest hit by the proposed changes. Diocese of Missouri says Johnson will take steps to ensure guns are not allowed in diocesan churches when the law is passed.
“I urge our lawmakers not to just abandon this bill [but] to sit down with religious people, people of many different faiths, to hear our stories, to listen to us, ”he said.
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected]