The Mississippi state senate has passed a bill to allow churches to train members to carry guns and act as armed security during services.
The Mississippi Church Protection Act exempts individuals from legal action if they do use their weapons. It will also allow people to carry guns in holsters without a state concelaed weapons permit.
The bill, which has been sent to the House for further work, has received heavy criticism both within the Senate and from state police officers. It has also elicited debate over interpretations of Christian scripture.
A proponent of the bill, Republican state senator Sean Tindell, said: "The self-defense of these churches is a God-given right."
He referenced the massacre at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston last year, claiming the new legislation would "protect the church body".
Democrat senator Hillman Frazier challenged this line of thought, however, citing the story of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he healed the servant after Peter cut off his ear.
"We don't need to pimp the church for political purposes," Frazier said.
"If you want to pass a bill liberalising gun laws, then do that. Don't use the church."
The law would require churches and other places of worship to provide training for armed members.
"If the action in question occurs during the reasonable exercise of and within the course and scope of the member's official duties as a member of the security program for the church or place of worship" the individual would be immune to civil prosecution, the bill stipulates.
The Mississippi Police Chiefs Association (MPCA) has criticised the bill, particularly its permission to carry a gun without a concealed carry license.
"By effectively dismantling Mississippi's licensing system, this bill would block law enforcement who stop an armed suspect from confirming that he isn't a violent criminal, severely mentally ill or otherwise dangerous," Ken Winter, executive director of the MPCA, told the Clarion-Ledger in Februrary.
"We just don't believe that it's a good idea for people to be carrying concealed weapons and not have participated in any training," Winter said, according to ABC News.