This Sunday, Some Churchgoers May Choose to Pack Guns With Their Bibles

Congregations face question of security at services in wake of Texas shooting; ‘a responsibility to protect the flock’

Workers on Thursday replaced the front door of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others on Nov. 5.
Workers on Thursday replaced the front door of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 26 people and wounded 20 others on Nov. 5. PHOTO: SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

As he does every Sunday, the Rt. Rev. Council Nedd II, an Anglican rector, will put on his collar and robes to offer Mass at his central Pennsylvania church. Now, he is considering wearing something else with his religious vestments: his handgun.

As a Pennsylvania state constable, Dr. Nedd can bring his gun just about everywhere—to the grocery store, to the park and to synagogues and other houses of worship, where he often acts as security. His church was the one place where he went unarmed.

“Weapons do not belong in church,” he said. But, as a bishop, he has “a responsibility to protect the flock,” he added.

One week after a shooting at a Texas churchleft 26 dead and 20 more wounded, congregations gathering for worship around the country Sunday are once again facing the question of security. Long the last frontier where many gun owners went unarmed, the faithful are now considering whether they should bring firearms to their houses of worship as well.

Many who live near Sutherland Springs, Texas, where last week’s shooting took place, said they didn’t bring their weapons into their houses of worship.

Tomie Barker, who attends Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek in Seguin, Texas, about 15 miles north of Sutherland Springs, said her husband didn’t have the firearm he is licensed to carry on him last Sunday when their church was locked down following the shooting at the nearby First Baptist Church. But, she said, he plans to have it with him this Sunday.

“Why would we take a gun to church? Church and school—we feel like we ought to be safe,” she said on Saturday, nearly a week after the shooting. “But he’s not leaving home without it now.”

Ms. Barker, 60, thinks other worshipers will feel the same, and said she told her pastor that the church should probably make note of who is armed in case another emergency arises.

“I’ve told everybody, I told my pastor: I’m not going to be a sitting duck or a fish in the barrel,” she said. “We know all about the whack-a-doodles and the copycats.”

Houses of worship are among the softest of soft targets, with inherent missions and traditions emphasizing peace and welcoming. Churches, synagogues, mosques and Sikh temples have struggled to balance their desire to provide an open sanctuary for the community with security. In recent years, many houses of worship have installed cameras and hired armed guards.

The Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting, offered a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches signed up for the course within three days.
The Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting, offered a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches signed up for the course within three days. PHOTO: STEWART F. HOUSE/GETTY IMAGES

After the shooting last Sunday, Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said churches needed armed protection.

Another shooting is “going to happen again, so we need people in churches, either professional security or at least arming some of the parishioners,” he said in an interview on Fox News.

Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch in Plano, Texas, announced last week that it would be holding a free seminar on church security. Representatives from more than 300 churches, large and small, signed up within three days.

With roughly 12,000 attendees at its services every Sunday, Prestonwood has armed security guards. Jack Graham, the church’s pastor, said the church had resisted putting in metal detectors so that the church would continue to feel welcoming, and didn’t allow open carry of firearms for the same reason. He suspects some congregants with concealed-carry permits do bring their firearms.

“Frankly, it brings some comfort,” Dr. Graham said of the armed church members. “If there had been someone with a weapon in that little church, maybe that could have been prevented.”

But not every house of worship can afford private security. Smaller churches are now considering arming the congregation or clergy.

Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and chairwoman of the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum, owns a gun and supports people being able to carry them, but had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces.

“I’m not too crazy about guns in church—somebody could take the gun and do something,” said Ms. Read, 59, who sometimes worshiped at the First Baptist Church but wasn’t there last week. “Maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic, but not everybody in a pew.”

St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Pine Grove Mills, Pa., where Dr. Nedd is rector, has roughly 50 members, and no budget for private security.

Until several years ago, the church was open 24 hours a day, with no locks on the doors. After a deadly shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., last year, the St. Alban’s congregation discussed security measures. When a newcomer showed up, everyone eyed him warily. Dr. Nedd considered bringing his gun, but decided against it.

Wendy Coulson, a 55-year-old member of St. Alban’s congregation, said she had never brought a gun to church before last year.

Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and gun owner in Sutherland Springs, said she had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces, but ‘maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic.’
Tambria Read, a schoolteacher and gun owner in Sutherland Springs, said she had always preferred to keep firearms out of religious spaces, but ‘maybe somebody in a church needs a gun, someone strategic.’ PHOTO:TAWNELL D. HOBBS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Then, one Sunday after the Charleston shooting, she was spiritually guided to bring her gun, she said. Ms. Coulson has a concealed carry permit, and didn’t tell anyone it was with her, she said. Though she hasn’t brought her gun since, having it that day made her feel better, she said.

“The reality of the times is that, if I’m in church, I can’t be completely abandoned to my worship, because I have half an ear listening for a strange sound—that’s the unfortunate part of what we’re dealing with today,” said Ms. Coulson, an engineering consultant. “If somebody were to target our church, I definitely would feel more comfortable that somebody else had an opportunity to slow them day,” she added.

Inez Howe, another parishioner, is from a house with “so many guns.” But her family, too, hasn’t brought them to church. She uses the guns largely for rattlesnakes, she said, adding that her husband, a devoted shooter and collector, doesn’t want to be in a position of using a gun to kill a person.

Still, Ms. Howe would be more comfortable now if someone—“maybe the bishop”—would be armed in church.

“I would never have even thought of a gun in church,” Ms. Howe, 74, said. “But if someone would walk in, I’d hope that we would be prepared.”

Dr. Nedd, the church’s rector, remained torn about whether to arm himself.

“I don’t feel right carrying it on my person when I’m saying mass,” he said. “I’ll probably spend a bunch of time praying about it, and then make a decision when I walk out the door on Sunday morning.”

Write to Ian Lovett at Ian.Lovett@wsj.com and Erin Ailworth at Erin.Ailworth@wsj.com

Two More Big Law Enforcement Endorsements for the Campaign of Linsey Landis

To: All Media Outlets
From: LESMA Board and LEOSA PA staff
Subject: Linsey Landis for district 41-3-02

The board and staff of LESMA and its sister organization LEOSA PA are pleased to announce that they are endorsing Mrs. Linsey Landis for District Magistrate in the upcoming May 16th election. Upon review of her background and experience it is clear that she is uniquely qualified for the position. Her time as a deputy sheriff along with being a loving mother gives her an insight into the needs of the community for both those who live there and those who serve it. Mrs. Landis has shown that she can be firm, fair and above all maintain a level of statesmanship second to none.

Our organization prides itself in backing law enforcement candidates in all political races throughout the country. We work hard to ensure that the candidates are of high moral fiber, dedicated and above all fit to serve their community and Linsey Landis is just such a candidate. We encourage all of our members and affiliates (locally and nationally) to support and back Mrs. Landis in her upcoming spring run.

Fraternally yours,
Mr. David Chianese
CEO/Founder LESMA

The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables Endorses Linsey Landis for Magisterial District Judge

Harrisburg, PA  Lifelong Juniata County resident, wife, mother and deputy sheriff, Linsey Landis has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables in her run for District Magistrate against the incumbent.

The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables endorsed Landis for district judge in the primary race for district 41-3-02, which serves the Boroughs of Mifflin and Port Royal as well as the townships of Beal, Lack, Milford, Spruce Hill, Turbett, Tuscarora and Walker.

“It is with great pride and honor that the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables gives its endorsement to Linsey Landis in the 2017 Spring Primary Municipal election. She understands the needs of her community, and appreciates the role that constables play in the operations of the minor judiciary,” said Constable Council Nedd, a board member and chaplain for the FOC.

Nedd continued, “due to Linsey’s experience and background, this organization feels that Ms. Landis will be a fair and honest official in the execution of her duties as a Magisterial District Judge, and will restore integrity to the office.”

Constables in Pennsylvania are peace officers that provide security and enforcement services for district courts.

The primary election is May 16, and we encourage all to support Linsey Landis for Magisterial District Judge.

 

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Ten Most Wanted

TEN MOST WANTED

The following individuals are wanted by the office of Pennsylvania State Constable Council Nedd.  All of these defendants are wanted because of multiple arrest warrants.  This website will be updated and additional notices will be posted in the future.  If you know the whereabouts of any of these individual, please contact my office immediately at (814)571-9375

 

CAPTURED Amal N Al Jashmi (DOB 09/11/1990)

My office has five warrants on this individual.  He is believed to be driving a blue four-door Honda with license plate HXS9593.  The registered owner of this car is Salah Hussain. He is still believed to be in the State College area.

 

CAPTURED Cody D. Baranak (DOB 04/17/1992)

My office has nine warrants on Cody Barnak. If you see Cody Baranak, do not approach or attempt to apprehend him.  He should be treated as a dangerous individual.  His known addresses include  Port Matilda, PA, State College, PA and Penns Valley.  His know associates include  Kaitlynn Rearick.

 

Waamiq Bey

My office has three warrants for Mr. Bey.  Mr Bey lives in Johnstown, PA.

 

Warren Brewer (DOB 02/10/1981)

He is wanted by Pennsylvania State Constable Council Nedd’s office on multiple traffic warrants for failing to make payments on multiple charges by which he was found guilty of in a Court of  law.  Mr. Brewer has ignored all of our notices to take care of these matters on his own, and has failed to resolve these matters to date.  KNOWN ADDRESSES: Milroy, PA; Granville, PA; Lewistown, PA; Mifflintown, PA; Hattiesburg, MS.  Known associates: Tadena Bressler

 

CAPTURED Wonseok Jang (DOB 01/07/1991)

My office has four warrants from this individual.  He is beleived to still be driving a blue, Nissan Altima, PA license plate JFJ-2049 and as known addresses in State College, PA and Middletown, PA.

 

Ndugu Mandela Kamau (DOB 01-03-1986)

Ndugu Kamau is believed to be working in the petro chemical industry.  Recent addresses include, State College, PA, Cheyene, PA, Louisana and Montana.  He was scheduled to turn himself in and failed to appear.

 

Heuynggi Lee & Kyunghwa Lee

My office has three warrants for Mr. and Mrs. Lee for various housing code violations.  The Lees are believed to currently be living on Katydid Court in Pensacola, FL.

 

Paul N. Olisah

My office has six warrants for charges originated by the Ferguson Township Police Department.  Known Addresses include St. Albans NY, Brooklyn, NY, and State College, PA.  His car has New York tags, license plate EDF-6282

 

Taylor Chantal Slogosky a.k.a Taylor Chantal Johns (DOB 01-16-1991)

My office has multiple warrants on this defendant.  She has known addresses in Phillipsburg, Bellefonte, Curwensville, Decatur and Clearfield, PA