Press Releases

Federal Court: First Amendment Prohibits New York’s Ban on Firearms in Houses of Worship

December 8, 2023

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12.8.23
Contact: Peyton Luke Drew,
Direct: 972-941-4453


Federal Court: First Amendment Prohibits New York’s Ban on Firearms in Houses of Worship
Court finds the state’s prohibition inconsistent with the nation’s tradition of an individual’s right for self-defense outside the home.

New York, NY—Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the State of New York’s unconstitutional attempt to make His Tabernacle Family Church (“His Tabernacle”)—and all houses of worship in New York—gun-free zones.  First Liberty Institute and the law firms of Clement & Murphy PLLC and Ganguly Brothers PLLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of His Tabernacle, a nondenominational church in Horseheads, New York, founded by Pastor Micheal Spencer.  The court affirmed a preliminary injunction blocking the law in December which the state of New York appealed in January of 2023.

You can read the opinion here.

Erin Murphy, Partner at Clement & Murphy said, “The court made it clear that houses of worship have a constitutionally protected freedom to decide for themselves whether to allow otherwise legally possessed firearms into their facilities.”

“We applaud today’s decision by the court,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The court made it clear that the U.S. Constitution grants the right of self-defense for all Americans and houses of worship cannot be disarmed.  No American should be forced to sacrifice one constitutionally protected freedom to enjoy another.”

Pastor Micheal Spencer, founding pastor of His Tabernacle said, “We are grateful that the Court protected our First Amendment freedoms to make decisions about the safety of our congregation.”

The court explained in its opinion that it is, “hard to see how the law advances the interests of religious organizations, as a whole, by denying them agency to choose for themselves whether to permit firearms.”

New York had previously enacted expansive laws to prohibit the possession of firearms in houses of worship and other “sensitive” areas regardless of whether a person possesses a license to carry. 


About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke Drew at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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