It was a theological dispute, but the debate was taking place in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2015. The topic involved two pro-gun bills, and the burning question was: “Is the right to keep and bear arms a God-given right or not?”
Lest some consider this to be an “angels dancing on the head of a pin” type of discussion, think again.
The answer to this question determines where our rights come from and who determines if there are limits to those rights. The Founding Fathers made their position clear when signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They boldly told the rest of the world that the unalienable rights of every person are “endowed by their Creator.”
And that’s the key: Our rights come from God. That’s why our Founders could say that our rights are “unalienable” — or that they are incapable of being infringed. Unfortunately, the notion of God-given rights has been eroding for decades or even generations.
One of the Arizona Democrats, who took the anti-gun position during their theological debate, claimed the right to keep and bear arms couldn’t possibly be a God-given right since — now get ready for this laugh line — “I know that God didn’t write the Constitution.”
Some might find humor in Arizona Rep. Sally Ann Gonzalez’s comments, but the implications of her views are no laughing matter. Because here is the problem: If rights don’t come from God, then where do they come from? Do “We the People” decide what our human rights are?
Good luck finding any unanimity there. The view that denies God as the author of our rights grants authority over our rights to the whims and wishes of the 51 percent majority. But then what happens when a majority favors slavery or segregation? Or favors the infringement of a basic right like the protection of oneself or one’s family? If government gives people their rights, then they are only privileges at best — as whatever the government gives, it can also take away.
The Founding Fathers did not believe that our rights came from government. They said as much in the Declaration: “…all men are created equal [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
One of these unalienable rights is self-defense. Elbridge Gerry, who was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and our fifth vice president, affirmed this sentiment:
“Self-defense is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; this primeval principle, the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges everyone … to resist the first approaches of tyranny.”
Likewise, James Madison reminded his audience in Federalist Paper 43 that the right of self-defense is a “transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God.” So the God-given right to protect oneself is a “law of nature” that is universal (across the globe) and unalienable (irrevocable by government).
Bottom line: People have this right, regardless of what those in authority may think. And protecting this right has resulted in tremendous blessings for Americans throughout the years.
There are some pastors today who question whether a Christian should ever use deadly force in self-defense. But this completely contradicts the view that most pastors advocated during the Founding era. Clearly, most colonial preachers in the 1700’s were not pacifists. In 1770, Rev. Samuel Stillman argued that self-defense is a law of nature which was revealed in the Old Testament and reaffirmed in the New Testament:
“SELF-DEFENCE is an established law of our nature, and first dictate of common sense; which has never been superseded by any written law of God, or by the religion of Jesus…. During the old testament dispensation … some of the best of men were the greatest soldiers, as Abraham, Joshua, David, &c. And even in the New Testament, we learn … [that when] the soldiers asked John, what they should do? he did not take the opportunity, which was very favourable, to inform them that their employment was unlawful but rather directs them to do violence to no man, to be content with their wages; which plainly implies a continuance in their employment….
THE same thing is taught us by Christ himself. ‘If my kingdom were of this world, then would my disciples fight’…. [H]e declares, had it [his kingdom] been temporal, they would have fought in his defence, agreeable to the maxims of earthly Potentates. Therein teaching us, that to defend ourselves is lawful.”
Similarly, Rev. Nathaniel Robbins stated that using arms may be necessary for self-defense. In a 1772 sermon, Robbins argued that:
“Self-defence may require the use of warlike weapons, or taking up arms to prevent an incursion evidently intended, and the effusion of human blood, which would be the probable consequence of it…. David, who well knew the safety of making God his trust, and that this was his principal defence; we accordingly find praying to him for all kinds of prosperity in Jerusalem; yet we also find him blessing God, who had taught his hands to war, and his fingers to fight…. And we find our Saviour Himself minding his disciples to expect, that their enemies would be more fierce upon them, than they had been: And accordingly he gives warning, that he amongst them, that had no sword, wherewith to defend Himself, might find great want of one, and might therefore be ready to wish, some time or other that he had sold his garment and bought one.”
Of course, the passages mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg:
Let that last verse sink in. Jesus actually told his disciples to acquire swords, which were the ultimate fighting weapon of the day for the common soldier. If the disciples did not have a sword, they were to sell their cloaks and buy one.
Despite these clear instructions, pacifists have devised at least three objections to what Jesus said. They say that 1) Jesus really didn’t mean what He said in Luke 22:36; 2) that He condemned those who “live by the sword”; and 3) that He simply wanted people to always “turn the other cheek” when under attack.
So here are three truths to counter these three objections.
Some have tried to deflect the obvious teaching in Luke 22:36 by arguing that Jesus did not want his disciples to carry a sword, given his rebuke of Peter just moments later.
When soldiers come to arrest Jesus, Peter uses his sword to whack off the ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18:10). Jesus heals Malchus’ ear, but then turns to Peter and says: “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
Pacifists use this passage to say Jesus really didn’t want people to have weapons. But they only reach this conclusion by ignoring what Jesus had just said previously – when He told them to get a sword! – and they ignore what Jesus actually said to Peter.
Jesus did tell Peter to put his sword back in its place. He didn’t tell Peter to get rid of it. He didn’t quote the Torah to point out how God instituted “rock control” after Cain killed Abel or how Moses imposed weapons control upon the people. No, Jesus told Peter to put the sword back in its place, which indicates that He wanted Peter to hang on to it.
Jesus never said that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” That’s one of the biggest myths that is falsely presented in almost every Christian passion play. One can check any translation of the Bible, but Jesus never says this. For starters, this would certainly contradict other passages which praise the civil authorities (who use the sword for their livelihoods) for punishing evildoers.
Depending on one’s translation, Matthew 26:52 recounts that Jesus either said those who “take” or “draw” the sword are the ones who will “die by the sword.” What’s the significance of this difference? Boston preacher John Lathrop explained during a 1774 sermon:
“For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. For a man to take the sword, is to draw it when it is not put into his hands by the laws; therefore he who offers unjust violence, takes the sword: But on the other hand, he who uses a just defence does not take the sword, but he draws a sword which the laws put into his hands.”
The key is this: There is a time when using physical force is needed and justified, but it’s the misuse of lethal force which is condemned.
And to that point, at this particular moment in history, Jesus’ disciples were not justified exercising lethal force. Why? Because Jesus had been warning His disciples for quite some time that He would be “laying down His life.”
Jesus did not want or need to be rescued. He later told Pontius Pilate that He could call legions of angels if He wanted to be rescued (Matthew 26:53). So this was not the time for His disciples to fight because He was going to lay down His life. Having said that, He told his disciples to go out armed (Luke 22:36), and that is completely consistent with principles in both the Old and New Testaments.
Perhaps no greater confusion about self-defense versus vengeance exists outside of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-39:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Some have claimed that Jesus’ words here teach pacifism. But in reality, Jesus is refuting a confusion that had been adopted by the religious leaders of day. Years ago, Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) produced a Fact Sheet entitled, “What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control.” This document addresses this misunderstanding:
“Christ is clearing up a confusion that had led people to think that conduct proper for the civil government — that is, taking vengeance — was also proper for an individual….
To further underscore the point that Christ was correcting the religious leaders on their teaching that ‘an eye for an eye’ applies to private revenge, consider that in the same Sermon, Christ strongly condemned false teaching: ‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…’ (Matthew 5:19). Clearly, then, Christ was not teaching something different about self-defense than is taught elsewhere in the Bible. Otherwise, He would be contradicting Himself for He would now be teaching men to break one of the commandments.
The reference to ‘an eye for an eye’ was taken from Exodus 21:24-25 which deals with how the magistrate must deal with a crime. Namely, the punishment must fit the crime. The religious leaders of Christ’s day had twisted a passage that applied to the government and misused it as a principle of personal revenge.
The Bible distinguishes clearly between the duties of the civil magistrate (the government) and the duties of an individual. Namely, God has delegated to the civil magistrate the administration of justice. Individuals have the responsibility of protecting their lives from attackers. Christ was referring to this distinction in the Matthew 5 passage.”
It cannot be emphasized enough that there is a stark difference between private vengeance and self-defense. The former is offensive (and outlawed). The latter is defensive (and legal).
In his 1773 sermon on this topic, Rev. Simeon Howard explains proper self-defense versus unlawful private vengeance:
“Defending ourselves by force of arms against injurious attacks is a quite different thing from rendering evil for evil. The latter implies doing hurt to another, because he has done hurt to us; the former implies doing hurt to another, if he is hurt in the conflict, only because there is no other way of avoiding the mischief he endeavors to do us: the one proceeds from malice and revenge; the other merely from self-love, and a just concern for our own happiness, and argues no ill will against any man.”
The greatest reason for owning weapons is the defense against tyranny
Almost everything up until now has dealt with private self-defense. This was important to the Founding Fathers and the colonial pastors. And yet, they did not consider this as the most important reason for owning firearms.
The greatest purpose was alluded to by several Founders, including Elbridge Gerry, who said that self-defense was “the immediate gift of the Creator [which] obliges everyone … to resist the first approaches of tyranny.”
Likewise, James Madison (who is known as the Father of the Constitution) said in Federalist 46 that:
The Constitution preserves “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation . . . [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” [Emphasis added.]
Why are these governments afraid to trust the people with arms? They’re afraid because if they were to start abusing an armed populace, then the victims would shoot back. Tyrants aren’t so bold when bullets are flying back at them.
This right of resisting tyrants is at the heart of our Second Amendment. The Supreme Court addressed this issue in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008 and stated that the right to keep and bear arms is essential to “resist tyranny.”
Years ago, the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership did a phenomenal study. They compiled a book that delved into seven major genocides in the 20th century. These were the countries of:
All of these countries experienced genocide during the 20th century, but the genocide in every single country was preceded by gun confiscation.
The book does an amazing job of documenting this. It reprints the gun control law for each country in the original language on one side of the page and then puts the English translation on the other. And then the book gives the reader a historical account that shows how in each case — in each country — the disarmament of the people was followed by genocide.
R.J. Rummel is a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii. And what he says regarding government murders around the world is chilling:
“In total, during the first eighty-eight years of [the twentieth] century, almost 170 million men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. It is as though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of [government] Power, not germs.”
This is what can happen when governments prevent people from protecting themselves with the best available instruments for self-defense. This truth was well understood by the colonial pastors, who used biblical and historical examples to show why weapons were needed as a deterrent to tyranny.
Boston Rev. John Lathrop stated in 1774:
“THAT we may and ought, to resist, and even make war against those rulers who leap the bounds prescribed them by the constitution, and attempt to oppress and inslave the subjects, is a principle on which alone the great revolutions which have taken place in our nation can be justified.”
In other words, governments go rogue. And when they do, it is necessary and proper for them to be resisted with arms. But when the people are disarmed, then they can become subject to the cruelty of dictators.
When Queen Athaliah acted like a murderous tyrant in ancient Israel, she was deposed by armed representatives of the people. Likewise, in Queen Esther’s day, the Jews were only able to avoid extinction because a change in the law allowed them to strike down “all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them.”
In both cases, the Jews’ ability to bear arms made all the difference. But earlier in their history, Israel had been disarmed by foreign tyrants, and it resulted in tremendous persecution.
In 1 Samuel 13, Philistine raiders were making life miserable for the Jews. But they were only successful in doing this because the former had used weapons control laws to keep the Jews defenseless. The passage states:
“Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments [into Israel]…. Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, ‘Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!’
So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened…. So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.”
It’s important to note that the oppression of the Israelites was only made possible because the Jews had first been disarmed! This was a frequent tactic in this day and age. During a period when Deborah was a judge, Israel had been disarmed by a Canaanite king named Jabin.
After the battle, Deborah recounts that:
“When they [the Jews] chose new gods, war came to the city gates, And not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.”
In all of these instances, one sees that disarmament is not a blessing, but rather a curse. Disarmament leaves good people defenseless against tyrants, whether they are foreign invaders or home-grown dictators. This has been a problem throughout history, and our Founding Fathers were very aware of this.
It is no surprise that some of the most infamous despots of the 20th century were opposed to the private ownership of firearms.
Adolf Hitler is just one example. As the leader of the German Nazi Party, he was responsible for the murder and genocide of more than 20 million people. Hitler said that,
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.
For dictators like Hitler, weapons were to be controlled by the government. By contrast, the Founders said that our rights come from our Creator, and they considered the right of self-defense with arms to be one of the most important God-given rights.
To be sure, the private possession of firearms helped the American colonists to throw off British tyranny. This was not a theoretical discussion for them. It meant the difference between life and death.
In 1776, the Founding Fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence that rights are from God and are unalienable, and they later guaranteed this freedom in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By doing so, they made it very clear that there should be no limits on the right of law-abiding citizens to own and carry firearms. Want proof? Look no further than the Second Amendment, which says that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” [Emphasis added.]
To say “no infringements” is another way of saying “no limitations.” That is, no registration of guns or gun owners … no background checks … no waiting periods … no ammunition or weapons bans. The words “shall not be infringed” indicates that this right cannot be limited or diminished in any way.
This was the view of our Founding Fathers. For them, God-given rights were equal to “unalienable” rights that should not be limited by the government or by the whims of the majority. This view was preached in the pulpits by the colonial pastors. And it has become the heritage that Americans have enjoyed for more than 200 years.
Erich Pratt is the senior vice president of Gun Owners of America. He has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs, including MSNBC, CNN, Newsmax, OAN News, and Fox News.
His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, including USA Today. In addition, he is the author of Bearing Arms: Our Rights, Our Duties & Our Freedoms and The Constitutional Recipe for Freedom, a civil government textbook.
Pratt has been involved with youth for over two decades, teaching civil government to high school students. He and his wife, Stacy, have 11 children. He can be followed on Twitter at @erichmpratt.
 Daniel Terrill, “Did God Give Americans Gun Rights.” Retrieved March 19, 2015 at: www.guns.com/news/2015/03/18/did-god-give-americans-gun-rights-video.
 Elbridge Gerry, “Observations on the New Constitution, and on Federal and State Conventions,” Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul Leicester Ford (1888), p. 4.
 According to the Centers for Disease Control, guns are used anywhere from 500,000 to over 3 million times a year in self-defense. Compared to the 300,000 violent crimes using firearms each year, guns are used far more often to protect life than to kill. CDC funding produced a 124-page report by the National Academy of Sciences: NAS, “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence,” (2013), p. 15. Retrieved July 14, 2021, at: http://www.ncdsv.org/images/IOM-NRC_Priorities-for-Research-to-reduce-the-threat-of-firearm-related-violence_2013.pdf.
 See Jonas Clarke, “The Importance of Military Skill, Measures for Defence and a Martial Spirit, in a Time of Peace,” (Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1768); Jonathan Homer, “Character and Duties of a Christian Soldier” (Boston: Benjamin Russell, 1790); Simeon Howard, “A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston,” (1773) in American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1983), vol. 1; John Lathrop, “A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery-Company in Boston, New England” (Boston: Kneeland and Davis, 1774); David Osgood, “A Sermon Preached at the Request of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company” (Boston: Benjamin Russell, 1788); Nathanael Robbins, “Jerusalem’s Peace Wished” (Boston: J. Boyles, 1772); Samuel Stillman, “A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston, New England” (Boston: Edes and Gill, 1770).
 English is a fluid language. Many words from the 1700s are spelled differently today. Among others, this would include words (in this quote and others below) such as “defence,” “favourable,” “inslave,” and “Saviour,” as well as the lack of capitalization for terms such as “old testament.”
 Stillman, pp. 26-27. Retrieved July 1, 2021, at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/n09310.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
 Robbins, pp. 12, 16. Retrieved July 1, 2021, at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/n09855.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
 The very next verse (Exodus 22:3) continues the thought, stating that “…if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.” There are two important things to note about Exodus 22:2-3. First, King Alfred of the Anglo-Saxons inserted these two verses into his legal code. [The Whole Works of King Alfred the Great, (London, 1858), vol. 2, pp. 119-124.] Second, King Alfred’s laws formed the bedrock of the Common Law and spread to several English-speaking countries, including the United States. [Rev. Byron Snapp, “On Common Law: Interview with Dr. Francis Nigel Lee,” The Counsel of Chalcedon, March 1995, p. 22.] Taken together, the Common Law applied the principles in Exodus 22:2-3 as follows: One can kill in self-defense, but not if one is only and merely protecting property (where life is not in danger). This is the very point made in a court case where the judges ruled that a spring-loaded shotgun was not an appropriate way to protect an uninhabited building: “[T]he law has always placed a higher value upon human safety than upon mere rights in property, it is the accepted rule that there is no privilege to use any force calculated to cause death or serious bodily injury to repel the threat to land or chattels, unless there is also such a threat to the defendant’s personal safety as to justify a self-defense.” [Prosser on Torts, Third Edition, pages 116-118, cited in Katko v. Briney, 197 N.W.2d 351 (Iowa 1972).]
 What constitutes the common bearable arm for soldiers will change through the ages. In the first century A.D., the common bearable arm for the Roman soldier was the sword (see Romans 13:4; Ephesians 6:10-17). The Founders required every male of fighting age to own a musket and the ammunition for it (see the Militia Act of 1792). Today, the standard-issue firearm would be an M4.
 For an example of a non-literal reading of Luke 22:36, see the NIV Study Bible (1985) which states, “Sensing that the disciples had taken him too literally, Jesus ironically closes the discussion with a curt, ‘That’s plenty!’” [v. 38.]; “Not long after this, Peter was rebuked for using a sword (v. 50).” Kenneth Barker, gen. ed., The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985), p. 1583.
 Old Testament law never even comes close to imposing restrictions on people’s ability to bear arms. In fact, examples will be shown below demonstrating the curse of weapons control.
 See Romans 13:1-4.
 John Lathrop citing St. Chrysostom in his sermon of June 6, 1774. Lathrop, “A Sermon Preached” (1774), pp. 23-24.
 Notice how in the span of just four verses alone, Jesus warns His disciples several times (in advance) that He is going to lay down His life: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my lifefor the sheep…. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (Emphasis added. John 10:14-15, 17-18.)
 Pratt, “What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control?” (Gun Owners Foundation, 1999). Retrieved July 2, 2021 at: www.gunowners.org/fs9902.
 Gun Owners Foundation explains: “Even the choice of words used by Christ indicates that He was addressing a confusion, or a distortion, that was commonplace. Several times in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount Christ used this same ‘you have heard it said’ figure of speech to straighten out misunderstandings or falsehoods being taught by the religious leaders of the times. Contrast this to Christ’s use of the phrase ‘it is written’ when He was appealing to the Scriptures for authority (for example, see Matthew 4 where on three occasions during His temptation by the devil, Christ answered each one of the devil’s lies or misquotes from Scripture with the words: ‘it is written’).” Pratt, “Bible and Gun Control.”
 Gun Owners Foundation concludes: “Resisting an attack is not to be confused with taking vengeance which is the exclusive domain of God (Romans 12:19). This has been delegated to the civil magistrate, who, as we read in Romans 13:4: ‘is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.’ Private vengeance means one would stalk down a criminal after one’s life is no longer in danger as opposed to defending oneself during an attack. It is this very point that has been confused by Christian pacifists who would take the passage in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek (which prohibits private vengeance) into a command to falter before the wicked.” Pratt, “Bible and Gun Control.”
 In this sermon, Rev. Howard explains that to “turn the other cheek” means that people should disregard small insults:
 Emphasis added. Elbridge Gerry, “Observations on the New Constitution, and on Federal and State Conventions,” Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul Leicester Ford (1888), p. 4.
 District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
 Jay Simkin, Aaron Zelman, and Alan Rice, Lethal Laws: Gun Control is the Key to Genocide, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (1994).
 R.J. Rummel, Death By Government, Transaction Publishers (2000), p. 9.
 Lathrop, “A Sermon Preached,” (1774), p. 23.
 The story of how Queen Athaliah usurped the throne and murdered dozens of people is recounted in 2 Kings 11. The “commanders of hundreds” who actually carried out the execution of the murderous Athaliah were likely the elected representatives of the people who were established in Deuteronomy 1:9-15 (see especially verses 13 and 15).
 Esther 9:5. See also Esther 8:11, which explains when the law was changed, allowing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies.
 Emphasis added. 1 Samuel 13:17-20, 22.
 Emphasis added. Judges 5:8.
 Rummel, Death By Government, p. 111.
 Hitler’s Secret Conversations 403 (Norman Cameron and R. H. Stevens trans., 1961), quoted in Stephen P. Halbrook, “Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews,” 17 Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, No. 3, 483-535 (2000). Retrieved July 9, 2021 at: https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/ae1.c83.myftpupload.com/law_review_articles/nazi_firearms_law.pdf
 Hitler was not alone in this thinking. Mao Zedong, the Communist Chinese butcher who was responsible for the deaths of more than 35 million people, also did not believe in the masses owning weapons: “‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.” Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1965), 2:224.
 The words “shall not be infringed” are certainly consistent with the concept that rights are God-given and “unalienable.” The question posed during the 2015 debate in the Arizona legislature was this: “Is the right to keep and bear arms a God-given right or not?” And as stated earlier, the answer to this question determines where our rights come from and who determines if there are limits to those rights. Needless to say, if rights are given by God, then He is the only One who is authorized to put limits on them.