About the Plantiff Pastor Joseph Mann
Plaintiff Pastor Joseph Mann is a U.S. citizen and a resident of New York, resides in Oswego County, and is a member of Gun Owners of America, Inc. Pastor Mann is the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Parish, New York.
Pastor Mann has possessed a New York “employment” carry permit since 2014, and is eligible to possess firearms in the State of New York and has met all qualifications for licensure, including good moral character.
The CCIA has, in effect, rescinded Pastor Mann’s permit, making most places off-limits to him, including his own home.
For instance, the CCIA defines “sensitive location” to include “any place of worship or religious observation” (subsection c) which makes it a felony to even possess a firearm in that location. Pastor Mann’s church is a “place of worship” under the CCIA.
Prior to the CCIA, the church maintained a “church security team, consisting of trusted church members who are licensed carry permit holders, and are designated to carry their firearms to provide security and protection to the congregation during worship services.” Both Pastor Mann and his “team have received specialized firearms training from a firearms instructor who specializes in church security.” Under the CCIA though, neither Pastor Mann nor his “security team may possess firearms on church property” and further, since they are a “small church, [they] are unable to afford to pay for private security who might be exempt from the CCIA.”
Pastor Mann intends to continue to “possess and carry [his] firearm while on church property, in violation of the CCIA” because of this Court’s “recent conclusion that the CCIA’s list of sensitive locations is not deeply rooted in this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation and because neither churches nor anything like them appears in the Supreme Court’s list of traditional sensitive locations.”
Pastor Mann also lives in a parsonage that is physically part of the same building as the Church. This parsonage is not only used as his family’s residence, but is also used for church business where they have Bible studies, meetings of elders, and other church gatherings. Under the CCIA, Pastor Mann’s home is now a “sensitive location” where he is prohibited from possessing a firearm, “including a handgun for self-defense. Pastor Mann has for years, and still currently possesses firearms, in his home.
In order to fully comply with the CCIA, Pastor Mann would have to turn all his firearms over to the government, and he refuses to do so. Pastor Mann states that New York City has already sent letters to persons with registered firearms at certain locations, notifying them that their premises have been deemed a “sensitive location” and threatening that those business owners to surrender their firearms.
Pastor Mann states that the CCIA deprives the Church from its ability to make its own rules governing the carry of firearms on Church property.
Additionally, Pastor Mann refers to First Deputy Superintendent of State Police Steven Nigrelli who threatened people like the Pastor, who violate the CCIA, with a policy of “zero tolerance” and arrest for committing an unconstitutional felony. Pastor Mann alleges that at least one of his congregants is part of local law enforcement and is aware of the Pastor’s inability to avoid violating the CCIA, because the Pastor keeps a firearm in his home on church property. Likewise, Sheriff Don Hilton of Oswego County, whose personal belief is that the CCIA is unconstitutional and that much of it will be struck down, nevertheless has made posts on Facebook that “taking a legally licensed firearm into any sensitive area – such as a … church … is a felony punishable by up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison.” In other words, the Sheriff has specifically articulated that the Pastor’s conduct is illegal and that, even if the Sheriff disagrees with the law, “they will effect [sic] all gun owners[.]” This is not a disavowal of enforcement of the law, but rather an intent to enforce it.
Pastor Mann intends “this act of civil disobedience because the CCIA violates not only my Second Amendment rights and those of my congregation, but also my free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.”
Additionally, Pastor Mann provides “counseling and assistance in the context of many of the ‘sensitive location’ settings in the CCIA, including to the homeless, youth, in the domestic violence and abuse setting, and others. To the extent that [the] church operates in that capacity, the CCIA (subsection k) appears to prohibit [their] possession of firearms as well, and thus inhibits [their] ability to provide security for those under [their] care.”
Pastor Mann’s Church has an addiction recovery ministry, and he frequently travels to homes of people addicted to drugs, counseling them to seek help and voluntarily enter treatment facilities. While doing this, he at times has carried his firearm. But now, the CCIA makes it impossible for the Pastor to legally carry while ministering, as it declares all private property a “restricted location” and requires him to get express consent, sometimes of an addict, before entering his or her home while carrying a firearm for his own protection. But for the CCIA, he would continue carrying his firearm while providing this ministry as he has in the past.
As part of his addiction recovery ministry, the Pastor has brought people in the program to church property for counseling and care. To the extent the CCIA applies to the church because it separately bans firearms in “any location providing health, behavioral health, or chemical dependence care or services” (subsection b),” Pastor Mann cannot comply with this prohibition and intends to continue to carry.
Likewise, the church has a nursey, Sunday School, and a Junior Church. The CCIA appears to separately prohibit the Pastor, church staff, and the church security from providing security to their children, as it bans firearms at “nursery schools, preschools, and summer camps” (subsection f). Pastor Mann intends to not comply with this restriction.
The Church provides its facilities to a local homeschool coop, and the Pastor and his wife teaches classes, including foreign languages. As the Church operates at times as a school, firearms are likewise double banned. Pastor Mann will not abide by this restriction and intends to continue to possess a firearm in his home and church.
Pastor Mann believes that the CCIA places off limits “any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional rights to ... assemble[.]” Subsection s. This would seem to cover a church service. To the extent that this section covers  church activities, [the Pastor does] not intend to comply.”
The Church maintains a church bus and a church van, used to take church members, youth, and members of the public with them when they travel. The CCIA appears to ban firearm possession in their “bus” (subsection n), and Pastor Mann does not intend to comply with this restriction to the extent it applies to the church.
And because the Pastor’s church plays music before, during, and after worship services, the CCIA separately bans firearms at a “performance venue” or “concert” (subsection p) and additionally a “banquet hall,” as they often break bread together. The CCIA does not appear to include an exemption even for the Lord’s Supper (the Sacrament).
Pastor Mann believes that, “for Bible-believing Christians, it is clear that there may be times in which the civil authorities direct us to do what we cannot do while fulfilling our duty to God. In such circumstances, we are to obey God, and not men. This is one of those times.”