Yes, in both Maryland & Virginia you can carry for self defense while in church. While I usually open carry (advertising for my small business), I conceal while at church both because it is not an appropriate place to advertise and because I wish not to draw attention to myself there.
Many churches have chosen to establish Safety & Security ministries which utilize trained and armed individuals to secure their facilities. Many of these houses of worship have sent those persons to train with us in our various conceal carry and advanced pistol classes.
As I head out the door soon to head to my church, I put on my every day carry. A Glock 17 with TLR-1HL in Safariland holster on my right hip, Glock 26 appendix carry, spare mag holster on left hip with (2) 17 round magazines that work with both carry guns, (1) tourniquet on my person (more in my vehicle), and a pocket knife. All perfectly legal, reasonable and carried in a manner that nobody notices (outside those with training to identify an armed individual).
Now something to note, if your church is located in a public school- your right to self defense there has been just about banned. This was one of the aspects we thought about when deciding which church was right for us. The one church I went to throughout high school was located in a high school. Couldn't go there. The church we currently go to started an additional campus that was closer to our home but it is located in an elementary school. I was asked if I was interested in helping in this new start up. Unfortunately, for this only reason- I could not.
If it is otherwise legal to carry concealed in your church, you do not have a legal requirement to obtain prior permission. Obviously in such case, be discreet. But you will definitely want to find out if they have a Safety & Security Ministry. If there are other armed individuals on campus, it would be best to establish a line on communication with them.
My first time in my new church, I carried. I sat in the back closest to a exit with best visibility of a majority of the entryways. I noticed a gentleman with a long sleeve polo with a vest style jacket on assisting people and standing in various places along the rear of the room. I noticed his Oakley glasses on top of his head. I noticed how he walked and the position of his hands. He was apart of their Safety & Security ministry.
After the service was over, I walked over and shook his hand. I thanked him for what he was doing and let him know if he needed assistance in a situation to let me know- that I was on the same page generally as him, my casual way of letting him know I was armed to without outright saying "I've got a gun" in a crowded room to a man that doesn't know me from Tom, Dick or Harry.
Rabbit hole done. Long and short of it- carry always, be safe, be situationally aware. When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.
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