House of Peace or Piece? A State by State Analysis of Gun Laws and Houses of Worship (Mississippi Will Surprise You)

November 20, 2013

JCUA is working with our partners to ban guns in houses of worship. Many skeptics say that even if we successfully make this ban law in Illinois, the Supreme Court will strike it down. However, there is good reason to think that if we are successful, the court will not interfere. Beth Filipiak provides an analysis of similar legislation in other states, and what it means for us.  Some of the states may surprise you (check out Mississippi)…

by Beth Filipiak
Organizing and Community Development Intern, JCUA

State Ranking Gun LawsThe current Illinois Conceal and Carry Law passed in July 2013 allows concealed weapons, loaded or unloaded, to be brought into any place of worship beginning January 2014.  Houses of worship that wish to prevent guns from entering the premises, must post a sign at all entrances (there is one particular sign specified in the law, with specified dimensions, that signifies the independent property owner  has a preference of “No Guns”).

When the law was approved by the Illinois legislature, Governor Quinn attempted to veto some of the worst parts of it.  He said at the time:

“There are too many provisions in this bill that are inspired by the National Rifle Association, not the common good. Public safety should never be compromised or negotiated away.”

This is the sign required by law in Illinois for any establishment that bans guns within it.  Sign must be 4x6 inches with the only text being the reference to IL code.

The sign required in Illinois for any establishment that bans guns within it. Sign must be 4×6 inches with the only text being the reference to IL code.

Despite his efforts, the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto, and the law was approved without his recommended changes.  However, Governor Quinn is not alone in his thought process that houses of worship should be included in a list of prohibited places.  Multiple states have some type of restriction, and while they are often rather detailed, and continuously changing, here is a quick breakdown as it stands today.

States with Straight Prohibition, Even With Permit

Georgia and Mississippi have a strict prohibition on guns in houses of worship:

  • Georgia: The state’s ban on guns in houses of worship was challenged in court. The challengers claimed that the ban infringes on on their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.  The US Supreme Court upheld the state gun ban as late as January 2013, saying that the prohibition of guns does not prevent an individual from worshiping as they see fit. The court determined that bringing a concealed weapon into a house of worship is not essential to religious worship, and therefore does not meet the criteria of the 1st amendment freedom of religion.
  • Mississippi: As of July 2013, houses of worship are still on the state’s list of prohibited places for concealed carry, even with a conceal and carry permit and with the new Open Carry laws enacted in the state.

States that Prohibit Guns, Unless the Individual House of Worship Permits It

In these cases, the assumption is that guns are banned in houses of worship. If a house of worship welcomes guns, it is its own responsibility to notify the public (and not as it is currently in Illinois, where the responsibility to put signs is on those who do not welcome guns):

  • Nebraska: Houses of worship are on the list of prohibited places for concealed carry, but individual houses may authorize security personnel to carry, IF they notify their congregations in writing (2009).
  • Ohio: Houses of worship that welcome guns must posts signs saying so (this law is currently in effect at least through January 2014).
  • South Carolina: Individuals must seek permission from the governing body of the particular house of worship, if they wish to enter with a gun.
  • Wyoming: Individuals must seek written consent from the governing body of the particular house of worship, if they wish to enter with a gun.

States that Prohibit Guns, Unless the Carrier Has Additional Training or Certificate, AND the Individual House of Worship Permits It

  • Louisiana: House of worship may choose to inform the congregation that they will allow firearms. In such cases, individuals who wish to carry a concealed weapon in the house of worship are required to undergo an additional 8 hours of training.
  • Michigan: Prior to 2012, all weapons were prohibited in houses of worship. However, currently, individuals who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon can bring their weapon into a house of worship, if they have the explicit consent of the house of worship permission.
  • Missouri: A general Conceal and Carry Permit and permission are required before you can bring your firearm into a house of worship.
  • North Dakota: Before an individual can carry a concealed weapon into a house of worship, ALL of the following are required: (1) explicit permission from the house of worship; (2) a Class 1 license; (3) local law enforcement must be notified of the name(s) of the individual(s) who are allowed to carry a concealed weapon in the house of worship.

States Where Houses of Worship May Specifically Choose to Ban Guns and Must Notify the Public

This is similar to the current legislation in Illinois:

  • Texas: “No Gun” signs which are posted by houses of worship are legally enforceable, regardless of permit status (whereas when the “No Guns” signs are posted elsewhere, it is not).
  • Utah: It is a criminal act to trespass with a firearm into a house of worship that has notified the public that guns are not allowed.
  • Virginia: Houses of worship may make the choice to ban firearms, but must notify the public.
  • Kansas:  A recent law in April 2013 created what has been called the nation’s most pro-Second Amendment law, which now places onus on the houses of worship to post signs.

How You Can Get Involved

All things considered, JCUA believes that people deserve to retain a safe space of healing and sanctuary, and that houses of worship should be that space.  Amidst all of the other chaos, we all deserve peace to worship.

Join JCUA and their partners in the campaign to add houses of worship to the list of prohibited places in our current gun legislation.  Learn more here or email Asaf Bar-Tura for more information at

*** The sources of information for this article can be found here and here.

Victory: JCUA Celebrates Passing of Fair Housing Amendment in Cook County!

May 8, 2013

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income.

by Lauren Goldstein
JCUA Intern, Advocacy and Community Organizing

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment.

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment (photo taken by Open Communities).

Over the last year JCUA has been a partner in the effort to pass the Source of Income Amendment in Cook County, which will effectively outlaw (finally!) discrimination based on source of income in Cook County. This is already the case in the City of Chicago, but the rest of Cook County has been lagging behind. This has allowed landlords to deny Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders the right to apply for residence in their units.

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income. Today, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES for a county where discrimination of this type will no longer be tolerated.

The discussion prior to the vote was moving and powerful. Among other speakers, Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery and longtime Altgeld Gardens resident and environmental justice activist, silenced the crowd with her moving words that proved impossible to disregard. A young mother of three and previous volunteer coordinator for the Obama campaign, also a Housing Choice Voucher holder, empowered the crowd to recognize that the stereotypical face of voucher holders is truly only a stereotype, and challenged the commissioners to see voucher holders as the strong, hardworking, veterans, mothers, fathers, and PEOPLE that they really are.

Following a separate roll-call of votes from the Commissioners, as well as astounding speeches in support of this amendment from Commissioner Garcia, Commissioner Sims, and Commissioner Suffredin, equal opportunity came to fruition amidst the celebratory applause, hugs, and words of praise from the audience.

While today is a day to celebrate justice won, we urge you to not forget the reality in which this discussion is rooted. It is concerning that in 2013 we must still debate whether to allow discrimination to thrive and to be codified into law.

Today we thank our partners in this campaign, especially Open Communities (who have led the fight and coordinated our collective efforts), Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Access Living and others.

JCUA will continue to work so that one day we may live in a society where basic human rights and equal protection under the law are no longer a point of contention. Until then, we hope you will celebrate this victory with us, and remember, as Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

[Urgent Action Alert] Stop Housing Discrimination in Cook County

May 7, 2013

Call your Cook County Commissioners Today! The County Board is taking an important vote tomorrow morning. Details:

housing_right_signIn suburban Cook County, a person can be discriminated against by a property owner or landlord if they happen to pay their rent with a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8).  This is codified discrimination happening in our very backyards.

As a partner in the Source of Income Campaign, JCUA supports an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance of Cook County which would make such discrimination illegal.  The Source of Income protection amendment to include Housing Choice Vouchers as a protected class under the county’s fair housing ordinance is included in the Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012.  This protection already exists in Chicago and we want to mirror that protection for the suburbs.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners are voting on the report TOMORROW, Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00 AM.  We need your help to stop housing discrimination!  Please call your Commissioner (find your commissioner here, contact info below) and tell them:

In the vote tomorrow, please vote YES in support of The Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012

JCUA will be at the vote and we invite you to join us:

Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00am in the County Board Chambers (118 N. Clark Chicago, IL; 5th Floor).

Please get there early to secure a seat or standing space.

Commissioners Contact Information:

1ST Earlean Collins


2ND Robert Steele


3RD Jerry Butler


4TH Stanley Moore (Formerly Williams Beavers district)


5th Deborah Sims

312-603-6381(if you can make only one call please call Commissioner Sims Office)

6th Joan Murphy


7th Jesus Garia


8th Edwin Reyes


9th Peter Silvestri


10th Bridget Gainer


11th John Daley


12th John Fritchey


13th Larry Suffredin


14th Gregg Goslin


15th Tim Schneider


16th Jeff Tobolski


17th Elizabeth Gorman


[Guest Post] Turn a Tragedy into a Victory for Justice

February 22, 2013

In May 2008, federal immigration agents raided the small town of Postville, IA – separating families and devastating a community. JCUA responded immediately (see photos), and worked with the Postville community in the years following the raid (read article). Nearly 5 years after the raid, JCUA’s partners in Iowa are calling for comprehensive immigration reform with renewed hope and urgency. 

by Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM
Dubuque, Iowa

Soon we will commemorate the Fifth Anniversary of the 2008 Immigration Raid in Postville, Iowa.  Having been in Postville at that time, I still carry with me the suffering of the people.

JCUA members protesting in Postville (July, 2008)

JCUA members, Postville – July, 2008 (more photos)

I recall the small girl with a scrap of paper in her hand crawling up the steps into the sanctuary and handing her paper to our Hispanic Minister with words that were clear and direct.  “Please bring my daddy home!”

I recall the women walking the streets of Postville with mandated GPS devices on their ankles.  During our walks and prayer vigils they held their heads high and carried signs that read:  “We are not criminals.  We came to work.  We came to feed our families.  We are mothers.”

I recall the words of Rigoberto Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Guatemala, who visited with those affected by the raid:  “I see the problem of Postville as full of injustices.  You should not rest until justice is done….”

The people, the memories, the pain, the injustices and the words of Menchu continue to haunt me.  I cannot rest until justice is done.

Five years ago a tragedy took place in Iowa.  Iowans responded with compassion, sensitivity and justice. Today there is another opportunity for Iowans to respond.  May we unite with one another and support legislation for comprehensive immigration reform.    May we turn the tragedy of Postville into a victory for justice.   May we not rest until justice is done!

Mary McCauley, BVM
Dubuque, Iowa 52003

In Pursuit of Just, Compassionate, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

February 1, 2013

by Rabbi Alison Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

There has been much energy, media coverage, excitement, and debate this week about both the Senate’s Blueprint and the President’s articulation of his vision for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).   At JCUA, we are glad to see Immigration Reform return to the national radar and hope the urgency and momentum we have seen in recent days remains strong over the coming months.

immigrationMembers of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team are again organizing and mobilizing a Jewish voice for a just and compassionate response to our broken immigration system through CIR legislation.  We will continue to advocate for a plan with a clear, effective path to citizenship that upholds civil rights and honors the humanity of undocumented immigrants (click for interactive timeline of our immigration work in recent years).

In  early 2010, JCUA drafted our “JCUA Statement of CIR Principles” which remain relevant in the current conversation about CIR.  Committed to human rights, we also want to see legislation which includes protection for LGBTQ people and their families.

Jewish tradition demands that we care for the “stranger” in our midst and our history compels us to fight for immigrant justice.  We invite you to join us in making just, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform a reality in 2013.

To get involved, contact:
Rabbi Ali Abrams
Director of Organizing, JCUA

JCUA’s Rabbi Ali Abrams Speaks at Town Hall Meeting on Housing Rights

January 31, 2013

As part of JCUA’s support of the campaign to protect the rights of affordable housing voucher holders in Cook County, JCUA’s Rabbi Ali Abrams spoke at a Town Hall meeting on this issue on January 24, 2013. JCUA is committed to the struggle to ensure access to secure, decent, affordable housing in vibrant communities for all.

by Lauren Goldstein
Organizing and Advocacy Intern, JCUA

Today, in Chicago, we are fortunate enough that our city prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income. Today, in Chicago, regardless of how an individual earns an income, they can use that income for housing. Our neighbors in Cook County outside of Chicago do not enjoy safeguards against discrimination.

SOI Pic 1 [1]The Cook County Human Rights Ordinance currently protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income. HOWEVER, it specifically exempts people who hold Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. This means that a Cook County resident holding a Housing Choice Voucher may still be denied housing by a housing provider/landlord.

Unfortunately, we have seen that this is happening far too regularly in Cook County outside of Chicago, as many housing providers are refusing to rent to qualified vouvher-holding residents. This discrimination has become a proxy for other types of illegal discrimination based on race, familial status, and disability.

Read the rest of this entry »

JCUA joins media campaign contra Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists alike

October 22, 2012

JCUA takes action in solidarity with the Muslim community in the face of hate speech and ignorance, and participates in media campaign to reclaim the meaning of the Islamic concept of “Jihad” from Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists alike.

In late September, 2012 the anti-Muslim extremist Pamela Geller put up inflammatory ads in the New York City subway stations, which read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad” (see here). New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority at first refused to put up such hateful signs, but was forced by a court order to oblige Geller.

Many in the New York Jewish community have responded strongly, including a counter-campaign by Rabbis for Human Rights – North America, who put up subway signs reading “Choose love.”

Here in Chicago, the Muslim community has decided that a significant point has been overlooked on both sides. At the heart of the problem is the blatant misuse of the word “Jihad” as if it were an acceptable synonym of say “terrorism.”

Indeed, many Americans remain confused about the meaning of the concept of Jihad in Islamic tradition. Led by the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), the Muslim community has decided to reclaim the meaning of Jihad from Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists alike.

Read the rest of this entry »

JCUA Endorses Campaign for Graduated Income Tax in Illinois

October 22, 2012

On October 3, 2012, JCUA’s policy committee met with Citizen Action Illinois to discuss the need for a graduated income tax in Illinois. After learning about the state of the tax system in Illinois today, the JCUA has chosen to join Citizen Action Illinois and many other community groups in endorsing the Fair Tax Campaign.


Some Numbers

Currently, Illinois has a flat income tax rate, which given Illinois’ budget deficits and funding needs, is inadequate also unfair. Consider the following numbers:

  • It has been reported that in 2011, the bottom 20% of households in Illinois bore quite a larger tax burden than the top 20% of Illinois households, as they paid twice as much of their income in state and local taxes than the top 20%.
  • The total tax burden felt by those with an average income of less than $18,000 is 13.7%; however, the tax burden felt by those earning $500,000+ per year is only 6.5%…yes, the group with an average income of $2,084,700 per year bears only a 6.5% tax burden [1].

To put it plainly, those with the lowest incomes end up paying far beyond their means, while the wealthiest households in our state pay what amounts to being a drop in the bucket of their income. Illinois is simply asking too much from those families who are struggling the most in today’s economy.

What Are Other States Doing?

What we’re asking for is nothing new – our neighboring states currently function with more progressive tax systems, and it is not coincidental that these states’ budgets put our state budget to shame. Some facts:

  • 34 of the 41 states that currently employ an income tax system have graduated rates already.
  • Analyses show that if Illinois’s tax base paid Iowa’s income tax rates, Illinois would raise $6 billion more a year, and over half of the taxpayers in Illinois would experience a tax cut of 24% on average. Imagine what this state could do with so much more revenue
  • To make matters even more pressing, the flat income tax increase currently in place will expire in 2015, and taxes will drop from 5% to 3.75%, taking with it about $4 billion in revenue for the state. If you think things look bad now for social services in our state, imagine what they could look like with $4 billion less.
  • By pressuring the state to amend the constitution and incorporate a more fair tax, Illinois would not only build revenue, but according to the non-partisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, this would also cut taxes for up to 94% of Illinois residents! (Learn More Here)

How Do We Get This Done?

This certainly is a huge battle to fight, but we feel it is also hugely important, and have therefore chosen to join hands with the Fair Tax Campaign to promote a more fair tax system. To do this requires a constitutional amendment. To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires 60% of the General Assembly’s approval, and the ballot proposition must be approved by 60% of voters. This means that the next step in this process is to win legislative and then voter approval. We are ready to stand by and do what we can to bring about a more just tax system in our state, and we feel we are on our way to a more fair future for Illinois. Stay tuned for the next steps in this campaign!



[1] Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of Tax Systems in All 50 States, p. 42, Third Edition, November 2009. Note: this table shows 2007 data updated to reflect permanent changes in Illinois tax law enacted through January, 2012.

JCUA Joins Campaign Demanding the City Lease Up of Vacant Housing Units

October 15, 2012

by Lauren Goldstein, Community and Policy Intern
(2nd year student at the University of Chicago, Social Service Administration MA program)

As winter nears, it is evermore concerning that there are currently over 68,000 low-income families and senior citizens waiting for the Chicago Housing Authority to afford them a place to call home. What’s more, CHA has failed to lease over 2000 vacant units of public housing across Chicago. These units could, and should, be providing homes to the people who desperately need them. This is why the JCUA is a member of the Chicago Housing Initiative’s “Lease-Up!” campaign.


Lauren Goldstein

It’s that time of year again here in Chicago – the leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, and darkness is falling earlier and earlier. Before winter sets in, it is of grave importance that the 68,000+ low-income families and senior citizens who have been waiting for housing from the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) are afforded a place to call home. Given the CHA’s failure to properly and efficiently address the thousands of vacant units currently shuttered across the city and allow some of the 60,000 families who remain on the wait-list (as of March 2012) to lease these units, the JCUA has decided to join the Chicago Housing Initiative’s (CHI) “Lease-Up!” campaign. We firmly believe that housing is a human right, and have chosen to take a stand.

Read the rest of this entry »

JCUA advocates for affordable housing protection in Cook County human rights ordinance

September 21, 2012

JCUA amplifies a Jewish voice in a campaign to amend the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to make discrimination based on Section-8 housing vouchers illegal (read JCUA’s letter to Cook County’s Board President here).


JCUA members and allies at a housing rally


One important focus of JCUA’s work is to prmote access to affordable housing for low-income people in the Chicagoland Area. One such affordable housing option is through “Section-8″ vouchers. Section-8 housing vouchers allow low income families to live in privately owned buildings. Section-8 residents pay 30% of their income in rent (similar to public housing residents). In the voucher program, the program pays landlords the difference between that 30% and the ‘fair market rate’ for the housing unit (up to a limit).

Read the rest of this entry »


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