A federal judge has denied a request for an injunction that would prevent Georgia from enforcing a law prohibiting licensed gun carriers from taking a gun to church.
The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston and GeorgiaCarry.org Inc. filed a lawsuit in Upson County Superior Court about a month ago arguing that he has a constitutional right to be armed while at church. The case has been moved to federal court in Macon.
Georgia is one of four states that prohibit guns in churches, said John Monroe, the Roswell attorney representing Wilkins in the lawsuit.
North Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas also prohibit guns in churches. Several states allow guns in church with permission from the churches, Monroe said.
U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal issued his ruling on the temporary injunction from the bench Monday morning. He cited the complexity of the issues and various legal arguments raised by the lawyers as reasons for denying the motion.
Monroe said the judge’s ruling on the injunction isn’t an indication of the merits of the case.
“It’s not at all discouraging,” he said.
Requests for temporary injunctions often are denied, Monroe said.
“It seemed like a case where it was reasonable to request one,” he said.
Royal posed several questions during the 30-minute hearing to Monroe and attorneys representing the state and Upson County in the lawsuit. He said his decision in the case will be made based upon written arguments submitted by the lawyers.
The judge gave the lawyers a 30-day deadline to submit their arguments in writing and an additional 15 days to respond to each other’s writings.
Lawyers representing the state have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. An attorney representing Upson County said he also plans to file a motion to dismiss.
Monroe argues that Wilkins often works alone in his office in the church and wants to “carry a firearm for defense of himself, his family and his flock, but he is in fear of arrest and prosecution for doing so,” according to a legal brief filed in support of the injunction request.
He also argues the “church carry ban” infringes on his First Amendment right — free exercise of religion — and his Second Amendment right to bear arms, according to the motion.
The aim of the case is to overturn a portion of a state law that bans people from “carrying a weapon or long gun” in a place of worship. The law also governs carrying a gun into government buildings, mental hospital and bars, but the additional locations are not included in the lawsuit.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.