The state's new concealed carry law is causing churches to discuss whether to post signs banning concealed weapons, and at least some parishioners are finding the discussion pretty tricky.
At Madison Christian Community on the city's Far West Side, the issue isn't so much whether concealed weapons are desirable in a sanctuary — no one seems to be making that argument — but whether signs should be posted that explicitly ban concealed weapons, and, if so, what they should say or look like.
MCC is a partnership between Advent Lutheran Church and Community of Hope United Church of Christ, which share a building.
The Rev. Jeff Wild, Advent's pastor, was given permission by the leadership team that oversees the two congregations to post signs prohibiting anyone from bringing firearms into the building. He came up with the idea of using part of 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
Wild's proposed sign says, "Love casts out fear, no guns here." He gave the slogan to the Rev. John Mix, a church member and jail chaplain who's an artist on the side.
Mix's design shows a glowing heart that is so hot it is melting a nearby handgun.
"My idea was that it is radiating the kind of love that disarms weapons," Mix said.
The signs have not been posted. "The catch is that some people have had a very strong reaction to the sign we created," Wild said.
One of those people is Advent member Ken Streit, a clinical professor at the UW-Madison Law School. Streit said while he's not in favor of people packing heat at church, he doubts a sign would really stop anyone intent on doing harm. His primary objection is that the law's advocates have forced churches and other organizations to react to their agenda.
"Who's pushing our button to do this?" he asks. "It feels like the (National Rifle Association) is getting us to post a sign, which is sort of like free advertising for them."
If parishioners were to think up 50 slogans they'd like to post on the church's door to welcome members and visitors, "would something about guns be in that list of Top 50?" Streit asks.
Marily Crews-Nelson, chairperson of the leadership team, said she's leaning against signs mentioning weapons. "I'd prefer to see a posting, ‘Peace to all who enter here,'" she said.
She expects parishioners to discuss the issue for a while.
Mix said he's not tied to the design he created — it was just one image that came to mind. Wild said he wishes he had the power of hindsight.
"I never expected this," he said. "I've learned the power of a graphic."
Meanwhile, inspired by Wild, the South-Central Wisconsin Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has posted this sign outside its Madison headquarters: "Love casts out fear, no weapons allowed here."
Religion-related story ideas? Email email@example.com.