Mississippi passes bill that would allow churches to appoint unaccountable ‘soldiers of God’ armed guards

This Tuesday, the GOP-dominated state of Mississippi approved a bill allowing those attending church to be able to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The bill also allows churches to appoint and train members as armed security for the church.

House Bill 786, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, would also block state officials from enforcing regulations and executive orders that conflict with the Mississippi constitution. Supporters of the bill also held off an amendment that would make churches post signs if they were employing armed security, effectively allowing churches to employ armed guards without public notice.

“Unfortunately, our nation has seen tragic incidents carried out in places of worship.”Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement. “Mississippians should be able to attend church knowing they have security measures in place to protect them from anyone trying to do them harm.”

Backers of the Bill, Sen. Sean Tindell (R), cited the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting that occurred last June as inspiration for churches being able to designate a “sergeant-at-arms” and offer them legal protection for doing their job. Pastor Gipson chimed in on the bill saying, “I wish we lived in a world where this bill wouldn’t be necessary.”

The “Mississippi Church Protection Act” passed with a 36-14 vote,  had objections from Sen. Hillman Frazier (D)

“We don’t need to pimp the church for political purposes,” Frazier said. “If you want to pass gun laws, do that, but don’t use the church.” The Secular Coalition for America also denounced the bill, saying it was the worst state bill in the United States.

“This legislation would put ‘soldiers of God’ above the law, allowing them to act as judge, jury, and executioner” said coalition executive director Larry T. Decker. “Religious institutions are already exempt from taxation, financial transparency, and many civil rights laws. The Mississippi Church Protection Act would constitute an unprecedented and dangerous next step. Belonging to a church should not afford anyone the same rights and protections as law enforcement.”

The Mississippi Church Protection Act will now head to the state House for further deliberation.

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