God and Guns in­deed: Ken­tucky pas­tor leaves pul­pit to push Sec­ond Amend­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

The Ken­tucky pas­tor who drew no­tice ear­lier this year for host­ing a God-and-guns event at his church is giv­ing up his flock for his Glock.

Pas­tor Ken Pagano re­signed his post last month at the New Bethel Church in Louisville, Ky., af­ter nearly 30 years in the min­istry, say­ing he wants to fo­cus on Sec­ond Amend­ment and church-se­cu­rity is­sues.

“Thirty years was a good, long run, but it’s time for a change,” Mr. Pagano said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times. “If I can write my own ticket, I want to get in­volved more in Sec­ond Amend­ment is­sues as they af­fect the church, and I can do more from out­side the pul­pit than from be­hind it.”

Mr. Pagano gained na­tional at­ten­tion when his con­gre­ga­tion hosted an Open Carry Cel­e­bra­tion a week be­fore In­de­pen­dence Day to com­mem­o­rate the roles of re­li­gion and gun own­er­ship in the na­tion’s found­ing. About 200 peo­ple at­tended the event, which fea­tured a hand­gun raf­fle and firearm­safety in­for­ma­tion.

Some of them wore their own guns in hol­sters. Ken­tucky law al­lows res­i­dents to carry guns openly in pub­lic with some re­stric­tions, al­though gun own­ers who carry con­cealed weapons must have per­mits. The event wasn’t sup­posed to be a big deal, Mr. Pagano said, but “it re­ally struck a nerve.”

“I would say 90 [per­cent] to 95 per­cent of all the cor­re­spon­dence we re­ceived was pos­i­tive, say­ing, ‘We’re glad some­body’s stand­ing up for this,’ ” Mr. Pagano said. “There were some who said, ‘Oh, it’s a bunch of red­necks.’ ”

Mr. Pagano said he was con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer change even be­fore the event, but the rip­ple tack from ter­ror­ists and other home­grown, dis­grun­tled in­di­vid­u­als,” Mr. Pagano said. “Un­for­tu­nately, most re­li­gious leaders are liv­ing in de­nial.”

The num­ber of high-pro­file at­tacks on churches has spi­raled in the past decade. This year’s church vi­o­lence in­cludes the deadly shoot­ing of a late-term abor­tion provider in Wi­chita, Kan., a fa­tal at­tack on a pas­tor ters reg­u­larly, but wres­tle with the idea of hav­ing an armed guard or parish­ioner within the church dur­ing ser­vices.

“When you have a church, you have peo­ple with the be­lief that you shouldn’t have a gun in church,” said Mr. Evans, a po­lice of­fi­cer with a SWAT back­ground. “But some­times a firearm is the only thing that’s go­ing to stop some­one from shoot­ing peo­ple.” I’m tak­ing the po­si­tion that ev­ery house of wor­ship or any other high-vis­i­bil­ity tar­get should have a per­son or per­sons trained in the use of firearms,” the rabbi said.

Such talk ex­as­per­ates gun­con­trol ad­vo­cates, who say that firearms in a crowded en­vi­ron­ment such as a house of wor­ship has the po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter.

“I’ve got no prob­lems with any in­sti­tu­tion, whether it’s a busi­ness or a church, hir­ing pro­fes­sional, trained se­cu­rity peo­ple who know the risks,” said Paul Helmke, pres­i­dent of the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence. “What I do have se­ri­ous con­cerns about is the idea that a pri­vate in­di­vid­ual, just be­cause they’re a gun owner, can be a se­cu­rity guard just by car­ry­ing a gun to church.”

As for Mr. Pagano, Mr. Helmke said, “Maybe he should be more con­cerned about the Fifth Com­mand­ment than the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

What some peo­ple don’t re­al­ize is that a pas­tor isn’t a “sanc­ti­fied sheep,” Mr. Pagano said, but a shep­herd, the pro­tec­tor of the flock. That in­cludes the phys­i­cal safety of the parish­ioners within the church build­ing.

“Peo­ple have this idea that Chris­tians have to turn the other cheek,” Mr. Pagano said. “That’s true, but I don’t think there’s any­thing in the Old or New Tes­ta­ment that re­quires them to roll over and die if some­one at­tacks them or their fam­ily.”

COURIER-JOUR­NAL VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ken Pagano, for­mer pas­tor of New Bethel Church in Louisville, Ky., has teamed up with a New York rabbi to form the In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Coali­tion of Clergy in an ef­for t to make “the vul­ner­a­ble less vul­ner­a­ble.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pas­tor Ken Pagano gained na­tional at­ten­tion when his church hosted a gun rally in June.

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