11th Circuit: Limits on carrying guns in house of worship do not violate Free Exercise rights

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. v. State of Georgia, (11th Cir., July 20, 2012), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected constitutional challenges to a Georgia law restricting the the right to freely carry handguns, knives or long guns in 8 specific locations, including any place of worship.  After holding that plaintiffs who hold weapons carry licenses and regularly attend church services have standing to challenge the law, the court held that the law violates neither the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment nor the right to bear arms protected by the 2nd Amendment. It rejected plaintiff’s free exercise complaint because plaintiff failed to show how the law burdens a sincerely held religious belief.  It is not enough to merely allege that the law prohibits activities in a place of worship that are generally permitted elsewhere throughout the state.  The court rejected plaintiffs’ 2nd Amendment claim because the law merely vindicates the right of a private property owner—here a place of worship—to decide whether to allow firearms on its premises. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on the decision.