Episcopal churches ban weapons after expansion of Georgia’s gun laws

Episcopal churches in Middle and North Georgia have banned firearms from their sanctuaries following Gov. Nathan Deal's approval of legislation that widely expands the state's gun laws.

Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta issued the directive Monday, telling church leaders and parishioners that the only exception to the policy will be on-duty law enforcement officers.

"My judgment and this policy are based on the normative understanding of the teachings of Jesus as the Episcopal Church has received them," Wright wrote in a letter about House Bill 60, which takes effect July 1. "This matter and I hope this policy afford us yet another opportunity to live the words we pray each week."

Dubbed the “guns everywhere” legislation by opponents, HB 60 passed on the final day of this year’s state legislative session and expands where Georgians may legally carry firearms, including schools, bars and government buildings.

It also for the first time expressly permits licensed concealed-weapons holders to bring firearms into the state’s churches, provided that an individual place of worship allows it. The legislation significantly reduces the penalty for licensed gun holders caught in off-limits sanctuaries to a $100 fine.

Wright was among more than 200 religious leaders in Georgia who opposed the measure, including Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple synagogue in Atlanta.

Deal signed the legislation at a ceremony last week.

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