By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
July 3, 2020
Thursday of this week, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed eight bills sent to his desk by the state legislature. One of those bills, HB 652 – Freedom to Worship Safely, was a measure supported by the Christian Action League.
HB 652 is a measure very much like another bill, HB 110 – Protect Religious Meeting Places, which was run in 2019. HB 110 was never taken up by the Senate before the session ended. The impetus behind the legislation was the rash of mass shootings at places of worship in 2019, something the Associated Press said was one of the worst years in recent history for attacks on religious groups.”
North Carolina law allows firearms in churches unless the church prohibits them. Nevertheless, the state forbids them in schools. “So what happens, in this day of church shootings, if your church is meeting in a school building as many do across the state?” asked Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It could only mean parishioners would be entirely vulnerable for some mass shooter motivated by ethnoreligious, anti-Christian hate, or some other ungodly reason.”
This gap in protection for churchgoers meeting in schools became the focus of the proposal.
HB 652 would have allowed a person who holds a concealed handgun permit, or someone exempt from needing a handgun permit, to possess and carry a handgun on educational property that serves as a religious place of worship if:
- The education property is not a university, college, or community college.
- The education property is not owned by a local board of education or county commission.
- The weapon is a handgun.
- The handgun is possessed and carried outside of any time when any curricular or extracurricular activities are taking place.
- The owner has not posted signs prohibiting the carrying of handguns on the premises.
HB 652 passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
According to the North State Journal, “The NRA-ILA supported the bill, which was similar to a bill in Texas that allowed a citizen to defend a congregation from an attack last year. The bill also contained a provision allowing sheriffs to accept a refresher course for lapsed concealed carry permits.”
Cooper’s explanation for vetoing the legislation was that the measure “allows guns on school property, which threatens the safety of students and teachers.” But Rev. Creech said the bill prohibits possession of a handgun when any curricular or extracurricular activities are taking place, which eliminates the Governor’s concerns.
House Majority Leader, Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) called the Governor’s veto of the measure “indefensible.”
“We have witnessed horrifying church shootings around the country, and members of the faith community have asked us to provide them with equal protection under the law. Governor Cooper has decided these private organizations do not have the right to protect human lives on their private property. This bill was for non-public schools only. He needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives.”
Rev. Creech took the matter even further in his statement:
“For those of us who have made theology our life’s work, we know that in the Old Testament, God had a people. God promised the people of Abraham’s seed, ‘I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you.’ Look through the annals of history, and you will see that those who blessed Israel were blessed, and those who cursed her were cursed. But in New Testament times, this same promise is extended to all those who are the children of Abraham by faith. In other words, the promise is not limited to lineage but extended to every person of every race, who, like Abraham, looked for redemption in a coming Redeemer, now looks for salvation in the Redeemer who has come, Jesus Christ. Carefully investigate the annals of history, and you will also see that God blessed those who blessed his church, and he cursed those who cursed it. What Cooper has done is no less than to curse God’s people by denying them the ability to protect themselves. I say it unequivocally, it is an egregious sin, and the Lord will judge the Governor if he doesn’t repent of it. I’m praying our Governor will have a change of heart.”
HB 652 would have been effective December 1, 2020, if the Governor had not vetoed it.
House Speaker Tim Moore said, “The House will consider a veto override next week of these important constitutional rights for church congregations that drew more than enough bipartisan support in the General Assembly to enact the protections into law.”