Archive | Religion and the Law

Does CHL ban in churches violate the First Amendment?

An opinion released today by the Arkansas Attorney General says “no.” Like most states, Arkansas allows adults to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun for lawful purposes, after passing a background check and  safety class.  Like a few states, Arkansas prohibits licensed carry in “Any church or other place of worship.”

In short, the AG opinion says that there is no Free Exercise violation because the statute does not (at least facially) hinder the exercise of religion. Further, the statute is one of general applicability, and does not single out religion for different treatment, because the Arkansas conceald handgun license (CHL) statute also bans CHL in some other locations. The opinon suggests that what these disparate places have in common is that they are likely to be crowded.

There is no Establishment Clause violation because the CHL in churches ban does not appear, facially, to favor one sect or denomination over another. (The AG opinion and this post both use “churches” to include synagogues, mosques, and all other houses of worship of various religions.)

The AG opinion strongly emphasizes that the issue is one of first impression, and that a full legal resolution of the issue might well require fact-finding.  The purpose of an Attorney General opinion is only facial review, and not the kind of fact-finding that a court might engage in.

Given the self-declared limited scope of the AG opinion, its tentative legal conclusions are plausible. However, I think that if we broaden our view a little bit–in either a court of law, or the court of public opinion–there do appear to be some potential violations of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.

Two preliminary caveats: First, neither the AG opinion nor this post address whether the church ban violates the right to arms clause of [...]

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