CCRKBA this month names Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, minister of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston, Georgia as the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month.
John M. Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, nominated the clergyman for the award.
“Rev. Wilkins,” said Snyder, “has stood up in a most forthright, determined and articulate manner for the individual Second Amendment civil right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms. He has argued explicitly and convincingly that there is an intrinsic connection between the right of self-defense and traditional religious values. He has done this and is doing this in a challenge to an anti-gun state law. He truly deserves to receive the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award.”
Rev. Wilkins and currently are involved in an effort to allow law-abiding citizens in Georgia who are licensed to carry guns into churches.
The issue arose earlier this year when the state legislature enacted and the governor signed into law a prohibition on guns and churches.
Rev. Wilkins wants to arm himself while working alone at the church and during services “for the protection of his flock, his family and himself,” according to a lawsuit filed for the minister and by attorney John Monroe.
The lawsuit was filed against the state in July in Upson County Superior Court and then later moved to the U.S. District Court in Macon. In August, U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal set deadlines for each side in the lawsuit to submit written arguments on which he will base his decision.
Rev. Wilkins, “frequently the only occupant of the building while working in his office in the church, would also like to keep a firearm there for self-defense,” reports Bob Allen, a senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
In a church notice, the Baptist Tabernacle proclaims that, “One of the sacred rights given to man by Almighty God is the right of self-defense. In March of 2009, after the shooting of Pastor Winters in Maryville, Illinois while preaching at church, we resolved to always have a responsible and trained individual armed for protective purposes. However we were astonished that state law considers this a ‘criminal’ act. As citizens of the state we were ashamed that our state:
-Forbids our sacred right to carry weapons to defend our families from lawless renegades while at church. Especially in light of the recent trend of church shootings.
-Serves notice to criminals that we are unarmed leaving us defenseless and vulnerable to attack.
– Rends from us our corporate rights. As a body of believers, on our own property, it should be our decision and not the state’s as to whether we will allow armed people on that property, and
– Discriminates against the church by criminalizing conduct that is otherwise permitted state-wide.
“We sought resolution of this deplorable situation by legislative means which proved unsuccessful; we are therefore compelled to appeal to the process of litigation. May God vindicate our cause!”
Rev. Wilkins noted that critics ask why anyone would want to have a gun at church. “Folks are genuinely astonished that a pastor and his congregation would want to exercise such a right,” he wrote.
“Theologically,” he continued, “the critic objects by echoing the words of Christ in Matthew 5, ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’
“And yet Christ told us in Luke 11:21 the way to maintain peace was to arm oneself. ‘When a strong man armed kept his palace, his goods are in peace.’ It is the armed man who deters those who wish to disturb the peace.’
“On another occasion, the Lord stopped in the middle of a sermon and said to his congregation, ‘he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’”
Rev. Wilkins stated also that, “If the Second Amendment is indeed ‘the law of the land,’ then neither Georgia not the federal government has any right ‘infringing’ upon my right to ‘bear arms,’ even in church.
“Practically, this is a self-defense issue. People believe the illusion that churches are somehow ‘safety zones’ where bad people will ‘supernaturally’ respect a prohibition of guns in churches. But in 2007 Bob Unruh published an article titled ‘Church Shootings in the Rise in U.S.’ in which he listed 10 church shootings since 1999. After 2007, I have noted six additional churches that have fallen prey to gun violence.”
Rev. Wilkins concluded that, “Theologically, historically, legally and in all practicality the church should be free to allow its members the right to bear arms.”