By Robert Dilday
Nearly 200 interfaith religious leaders — including at least a dozen Baptists — took out a full-page ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Feb. 26 to oppose a bill in the Georgia legislature which would lift restrictions on guns in houses of worship and bars.
The ad appears about three weeks after a public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention testified in the state’s General Assembly on behalf of House Bill 875, which also would make it no longer a crime for licensed gun owners to carry firearms on college campuses. The House passed the bill 119-56 on Feb. 18, but it is under review in the Senate.
“We can no longer be silent about gun violence in our state,” 185 religious leaders said in the newspaper ad. “We will oppose political decisions driven by fear that promote the notion that the answer to gun violence is more guns. As citizens of Georgia and as leaders of faith communities we oppose House Bill 875 and any legislation that would allow more guns in more places in our state.”
Greg Smith, pastor of Scott Boulevard Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., and a signatory, said “at least a dozen” Baptist leaders signed the statement. Most of them are in the Atlanta area, though some live in other parts of Georgia, he added.
“This was a grassroots movement among pastors,” Smith said.
Other signatories are Dock Hollingsworth, pastor of Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta; Greg DeLoach, pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.; James Lamkin, pastor of Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta; Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur; and Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“Through our faith, we have a vision for human community that is built on solidarity and trust, not fear and terror,” the ad says. “We hope and work for the day when neighborhoods and communities all across our state will be places where human life is valued and celebrated, not tragically ended by gun violence. In this hope, we are encouraging all people of faith to become informed and active in preventing gun violence in Georgia. We pray for moral clarity and courage as we seek to build peace and good will among the human family. We commit ourselves to praying and working for public policies that promote the flourishing of our communities and our congregations in safety and peace.”