A Jesus sign welcoming visitors to the town of Hawkins, Texas, is under fire after the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin took notice, but the town’s mayor isn’t letting this one go without a fight.
In a report from KLTV in Tyler, Texas, Hawkins mayor Will Rogers argues that the sign, which reads “Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins” in gold letters against a purple backdrop, is not religious in the least and should therefore be allowed to stay.
“That’s not a church, we’re not welcoming you to a particular church, that sign says ‘Jesus welcomes you,'” Rogers said. “[Jesus is] the most googled and most popular man in the world.”
The FFRF begs to differ. In a letter to the town council dated June 1, Sam Grover, the group’s attorney, said that the sign “conveys a government preference for religion over nonreligion.”
As a result, Grover wrote, it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Rogers was the driving force behind the sign’s installation. He approached the town council about putting the Jesus sign on public land before he was ever elected mayor.
Since then, it has become widely embraced by the community.
“To me and many others, Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe,” Rogers said. “He’s in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. He represents love and kindness.”
FFRF’s letter posed the question of how Rogers or any other Christian resident would feel if the sign said “Mohammed welcomes you” or “No god welcomes you,” but the mayor hasn’t responded to that particular quip.
As one might expect, Facebook was pretty divided over whether or not the mayor had a point.
“It is really hard to see why people would think that JESUS spelled out in 4-foot tall letters would send a religiously exclusive message to Jews, Muslims, and Pastafarians,” wrote Damion Reinhardt.
Chris Salmon, however, saw the mayor’s point.
“As the sign does not specify a religion or even which Jesus the sign refers to, the sign does not violate the 1st amendment. The only way it would be a violation of the 1st amendment is if a thought crime could be prosecuted. The FFRF wants to sue on the basis of what they see is a thought crime, but that is not a path open to freedom loving Americans.”
What do you think, readers? Should the Jesus sign be removed, relocated to non-public lands, left alone? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via KLTV, linked above]