As widely reported in the media, on Tuesday of this week, a panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed-in-part a lower court’s injunction which barred the enforcement of certain provisions of Minnesota’s Personal Protection Act against two metro-area churches. The Personal Protection Act created a uniform set of state standards for the issuance of concealed weapons permits and established notice provisions in the event that certain property owners forbade the possession of concealed weapons on their premises. The plaintiff churches, however, wanted neither concealed weapons on their premises nor the type of signage and disclosures that the state required to inform visitors of this fact.
As I recall the discussions surrounding passage of the original Act in 2003, and I was a member of the House Civil Law Committee at the time, the aim of legislators was to dissuade pretextual, ad hoc
and whimsical claims that otherwise permitted firearms were not allowed on premises that were ordinarily open to, and served, members of the public – such as local government offices, restaurants and other public accommodations, and common carriers. To avoid ad hoc
bans as to which permit holders would have no advance warning, therefore, the Legislature created a regimen of uniform, but admittedly very ugly, signs
For me, the most interesting feature of the panel’s analysis is the tension between the doctrine that “[s]tatutes are presumed constitutional, and an appellate court should exercise extreme caution in deciding whether to declare a law to be unconstitutional,” on the one hand, and the panel’s apparent reticence to limit or recast the statute’s text so as to save it from constitutional over-breadth, on the other.
Thus, while the panel’s analysis includes important discussions on the preamble to Minnesota’ Constitution, the religion clauses of Article I
, and the limits of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, to my mind the broader lessons of Tuesday’s decision relate to the legal dangers that accompany compelled speech by state government. And that is an issue which extends far deeper and wider than the property lines of the plaintiff churches.
The panel’s complete analysis is accessible here