“We’re just going to celebrate the upcoming theme of the birth of our nation,” said pastor Ken Pagano. “And we’re not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms — without that this country wouldn’t be here.”
The guns must be unloaded and private security will check visitors at the door, Pagano said.
He said recent church shootings, including the killing Sunday of a late-term abortion provider in Kansas, which he condemned, highlight the need to promote safe gun ownership. The New Bethel Church event was planned months before Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in a Wichita church.
Kentucky allows residents to openly carry guns in public with some restrictions. Gun owners carrying concealed weapons must have state-issued permits and can’t take them to schools, jails or bars, among other exceptions.
Pagano’s Protestant church, which attracts up to 150 people to Sunday services, is a member of the Assemblies of God. The former Marine and handgun instructor said he expected some backlash, but has heard only a “little bit” of criticism of the gun event.
John Phillips, an Arkansas pastor who was shot twice while leading a service at his former church in 1986, said a house of worship is no place for firearms.
“A church is designated as a safe haven, it’s a place of worship,” said Phillips, who was shot by a church member’s relative for an unknown reason and still has a bullet lodged in his spine. “It is unconscionable to me to think that a church would be a place that you would even want to bring a weapon.”
This plan is fraught with problems from top to bottom. I’m not really clear on the theological justification either.