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Church Protection Act Passes the House, Heads to The Beebe

Updated: Apr 13

Rep. Bell, the Gnome of Mena, wielding his fully automatic Glock assault rifle.

Rep. Nate Bell, gnome de Mena, wielding his fully automatic Glock assault rifle machine gun.

Yesterday, the House passed SB71, “The Church Protection Act,” which we have been following for a few weeks now. It was a landslide: 85 for and only 8 votes against, with 7 not voting.

I would remind you (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) that the bill will not mandate that churches allow concealed carry. In fact, the bill’s default rule is that concealed carry is still prohibited unless a church specifically decides to allow it.

Rep. Nate Bell, who carried the bill on the House side, spoke in favor of the bill today from the floor. He made several compelling constitutional points. First of all, current law — which prevents churches from setting their own dictates — conflicts with the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Secondly, the Arkansas Constitution, Article 2, Section 24 poses problems for the current law:

“All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can, of right, be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship; or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other.”

Furthermore, Article 2, Section 25 says:

“Religion, morality and knowledge being essential to good government, the General Assembly shall enact suitable laws to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.” 

“In any case or manner whatsoever” — wow, that pretty much covers, like, everything. Kinda makes ya wonder if the founders of America and Arkansas didn’t want the government messing around in church business?

To conclude his remarks, Rep. Bell said:

In summation, it’s time for our state to make our concealed carry law consistent with our state constitution and the Bill of Rights. It’s time for us to get our collective noses out of the religious affairs of churches and to allow someone other than politicians to make theological decisions. 

Regarding passage of the bill, Rep. Bell tells The Arkansas Project:

It was my privilege to present this important religious and civil liberty bill to the House of Representatives. I’m proud that the House passed SB71 with such a broad bipartisan majority. Today’s 85-8 votes sends a clear signal that business as usual is no longer the norm at the Capitol. Both chambers of the legislature have made it clear that we believe it’s time for government to get its collective nose out of the religious affairs of churches and for someone other than politicians to make theological and ecclesiastical decisions.

The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of an amendment and will then head to the governor’s desk. Given that the legislation has an emergency clause, it could conceivably be law and in full effect by this weekend. Don’t forget your pistol on Sundee!

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