A Kentucky pastor who believes that guns belong in houses of worship has quit his Assemblies of God ministry to work for the International Security Coalition of Clergy, which he co-founded with a New York rabbi.
Ken Pagano gained national attention last June when he invited his congregation to bring their guns to church and "celebrate our rights as Americans" in an "open carry celebration" the week before the Fourth of July.
"God and guns are not contradictory," Pagano explains. "They are part of our heritage. I’m not ashamed of it and will gladly promote it."
Pagano's actions were condemned at the time by other religious leaders, including Arkansas pastor John Phillips, who was shot in 1986 while conducting a service. "A church is designated as a safe haven, it's a place of worship," said Phillips. "It is unconscionable to me to think that a church would be a place that you would even want to bring a weapon."
Now Pagano tells the Louisville Courier-Journal that because of the negative publicity, he feels he has become "maybe a little too much of a liability" to his church, although he "didn’t intend for it to turn out that way."
"In all honesty, my heart was no longer in pastoral ministry as usual," the former marine added. "The church deserves people with more of a pastoral heart."
Pagano and the co-founder of his new group, Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, intend to travel to Israel next year to learn from security forces there. "I support him 1,000 percent in everything he does," Moskowitz says."
"We want to fortify religious institutions, whatever they are -- synagogues, churches, schools, religious schools," Pagano explains. "The armed citizen is the first line of defense."