The way Rev. Jonathan Wilkins sees it, members of his Baptist church in Thomaston, Ga., should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

Wilkins’ Baptist Tabernacle and a Georgia gun-rights association are challenging a new state law that prohibits weapons in houses of worship. A lower court ruled against them in January; the case is now headed for appeal.

“What we’re fighting for is not that just any old body can carry guns in church,” Wilkins said. “We would be responsible. We would want people who are trained, and so forth, to carry, people that we designate for protective purposes.”

Recently, state legislatures in Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana have been caught in the crossfire of the debate between gun rights and gun control as they consider allowing weapons in houses of worship.

Though gun-rights proponents think they have both the First and Second Amendments on their side, they also cite the rights of religious organizations as property owners. Opponents, meanwhile, worry that having weapons in worship is part of a slippery slope to permitting them everywhere.

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