A sign put up at a Washington County, Tennessee church has people talking. A News Channel 11 viewer contacted us, complaining about the marquee outside.
What you read on the sign depends in which direction you travel down Old Boones Creek Road in Jonesborough. On one side, Jonesborough Baptist Church advertises its Sunday school starting at 10:00 AM. The other side, something totally different, an offer more than an invitation making a point that’s purely political.
“Oh my goodness,” Caryn Vest of Kingsport said when she saw a picture of the sign.
Close to the sign are several flags, including a Confederate.
The pastor of the church, Randy B. Robbins wouldn’t talk on camera, but he told News Channel 11, “I am a proud Southerner, and I disapprove of Obama’s leadership.”
But while the pastor wouldn’t talk on camera, News Channel 11 found people around Jonesborough more than willing to react.
Eric Alford of Jonesborough said, ” I think it’s a good idea. It shows they have a backbone.”
“They should change it immediately,” Vest said. “And never, ever let politics get in the way of the message that you’re there for.”
Pastor Robbins also said, “the flags will stay the same, but the sign will change… We do reserve the right to express our opinion, whether it be with flags or a sign.”
Josh Taylor of Telford said, “I do feel like there is freedom of speech, at the same time there’s limitations at what people should be able to put up.”
“I think churches should be able to express their political opinions,” said Alford.
“Constitutionally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that sign,” said Constitutional Law Professor and News Channel 11 Contributor Stewart Harris.
Harris also pointed out Jonesborough Baptist Church is tax exempt and subject to guidelines. He said, “churches aren’t supposed to be directly involved in political campaigns.”
Still, Harris said rarely does anyone try to fight churches that mix politics and religion and he says the church isn’t endorsing a candidate for office. “So, I think that this message, at this time probably does not violate the IRS regs,” he said.
Pastor Robbins made it clear, his intent was not to offend or to defy the IRS. He believes he and his congregation have a right to say what they think and he says he said it in the spirit of good humor.
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