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Posted October 27, 2016

An Intruder on the Wall of Separation

  WASHINGTON  — Many of those who seek to drive expressions of faith from the public square cite Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association in which he referenced the First Amendment's "wall of separation between Church & State."

   Faith, they claim, should contain itself within the four walls of the church and stay separated from the rest of society. The First Amendment, however, sought the opposite, to keep government from intruding upon the church. And never more than now has such protection been needed. From the IRS to states' attorneys general, real life examples of government intrusion into the church are not  lacking.

   According to IRS interpretation, the Johnson Amendment prohibits speech by pastors and churches which is supportive or opposed to certain candidates for public office. Thus, the IRS is monitoring sermons for this objectionable content. The amendment is used as a litmus test to determine which pastor speech is or is not acceptable to the government in order to receive tax exempt status. Sermon content is monitored under the law, and certain sermons are flagged and the pastor and church are punished with the removal of tax exempt status as the price for exercising his First Freedom. This is an unacceptable intrusion into church autonomy and First Amendment rights. Churches and pastors should not have to deal with this, but should be free to speak according to the scriptures without government interference or coercion, which the Johnson Amendment does.

   Apparently, the state of Georgia is taking their cues from the IRS in its treatment of Dr. Eric Walsh. The state had hired him to head up the state's public health system, but found out he was a lay pastor and started reviewing his sermons and obviously found content it didn't like, and fired him. Now the state is seeking to obtain his sermons and related materials again, in order to monitor and sift through them again as part of this lawsuit. Just like the IRS monitors churches and terminates their tax-exempt status based on certain content, the state of Georgia monitored Dr. Walsh's sermons and terminated his job based on certain content of his sermons. This is an unacceptable intrusion into a pastor's autonomy which Dr. Walsh should not have to deal with; rather, he should be free speak, and that includes the freedom to preach. His freedom has been taken away by the state of Georgia, and it should be restored.

   In both cases, the government has seized authority over churches and pastors which it simply does not have. Government does not have authority over the things of God, but only over the things of men. Pastor Dave Welch from Houston (who was one of the "Houston Five" pastors who were subpoenaed by the city in another case two years ago) made this point well in the press conference held yesterday for Dr. Walsh. He noted how this case is like that of the "Houston Five" because in both cases it's important to stand up to government authorities who would assume authority over churches and sermons. No pastor is afraid of their sermons being public – they invite everyone into their churches every Sunday to hear what they have to preach. Rather, the issue is that a really bad precedent will be set if we sit back and allow the government to just assume it can demand anything from pastors and churches, and expect them to turn it over.

   As of November 1st, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will be appointing a new Attorney General for the state of Georgia. He can make sure he appoints someone who will show respect for religious liberty and remedy the wrong that has been done to Dr. Walsh here. Governor Deal's administration was absolutely wrong to fire Dr. Walsh in the first place for the content of his religious beliefs, and the Governor's appointment for Attorney General should fix this now – by stopping its intrusion into his religious affairs, and by concluding this lawsuit. If you haven't yet joined the over 23,000 Americans who have signed FRC's petition urging Governor Deal to do just that, sign it now here.


Washington Watch by Tony Perkins is presented weekdays at 9 pm and 12:30 am on CCN Radio and a weekend edition airs on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 pm. Perkins is President of the Family Research Council which promotes conservative values.

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Meet Tony Perkins

  Tony Perkins is the Family Research Council’s fourth and longest serving president, joining the organization in August of 2003.  Described as a legislative pioneer by the national media, Tony Perkins has established himself as an innovative pro-life and pro-family policy and political leader since first being elected to office in 1996. Recognized as the leading conservative and pro-life voice in the Louisiana Legislature,

   Perkins was a tireless advocate for the family.  In an effort to address the growing social problems brought about by the instability of marriage and no-fault divorce, he authored and passed the nation's first Covenant Marriage law in 1997, which captured the attention of policymakers across the country.

​  An effective communicator, Perkins is the host of a daily, nationally syndicated radio show, "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins."  He frequently appears as a guest on national news programs and talk shows.  In addition, he has been a guest speaker for respected organizations across the country.  He is the author of No Fear: Real Stories of a Courageous New Generation Standing for Truth. 

   A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a former police officer, Perkins brings a unique perspective to the public policy process. In addition to domestic law enforcement, he oversaw the training of hundreds of international police officers as the general manager for a Washington, D.C.-based firm contracted by the U.S. Department of State to provide the training and services in anti-terrorism.

   Perkins holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University, a Master of Public Administration degree from Louisiana State University, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity from Liberty University. 

   He and his wife Lawana have been married since 1986 and have five children.


Washington Watch by Tony Perkins is presented weekdays at 9 pm and 12:30 am on CCN Radio and a weekend edition airs on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 pm. Perkins is President of the Family Research Council which promotes conservative values.