A pistol-packing pastor who drew national attention earlier this year for hosting a "God-and-Guns" event at his church is stepping down from the pulpit to serve his flock with a new mission.
Pastor Ken Pagano ended his 30-year career last month when he resigned from the New Bethel Church in Louisville, Ky., saying that he wants to focus on church security and Second Amendment rights — a crusade he insists is better fought outside the ministry.
"Thirty years was a good, long run, but it's time for a change," Pagano told the Washington Times. "If I can write my own ticket, I want to get involved more in Second Amendment issues as they affect the church, and I can do more from outside the pulpit than from behind it," Pagano told the paper.
About 200 people attended Pagano's "Open Carry Celebration" at the New Bethel Church in June. The event commemorated the roles of religion and gun ownership in American history, and included a handgun raffle. Attendees were also provided with firearms-safety information.
While Pagano says the event drew mostly positive responses, it made him realize that he might have another calling — keeping worshippers safe.
Pagano has since teamed up with New York Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, who has worked to protect synagogues from terrorist attacks, to form the International Security Coalition of Clergy, an organization dedicated to "making the vulnerable less vulnerable," according to their mission statement.
The group promotes the use of armed and trained security at houses of worship. Kentucky law allows residents to carry guns openly in public, with restrictions.
"Churches are very soft targets and very vulnerable to attack from terrorists and other homegrown, disgruntled individuals," Pagano told The Washington Times. "Unfortunately, most religious leaders are living in denial," he told the paper.