Pastor Lawson Perdue, of the Charis Christian Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, says that the city is not going to allow his "Jesus is Lord" ads to remain on bus benches (video below).
"It's a nice way to get the word out," Perdue told KKTV. "We believe that Jesus is a very positive message of faith."
According to Perdue, the Colorado Springs City Transit Division recently told him that the ads would have to come down.
"I asked them why we could no longer use the name of Jesus," Perdue recalled. "And they said it’s because, 'If you use the name of Jesus, we must allow hate messaging.'"
The Transit Division responded with a written statement:
[A] recent citizen complaint about certain advertising on bus benches has caused City Transit staff to undertake careful review of both the advertising and Transit’s current advertising policy in relation to the requirements of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits the endorsement of a specific religion or its tenets. Transit is working with the Office of the City Attorney concerning the matter and Transit’s advertising policy going forward.
Perdue added that the city will allow the signs to mention his church, but not Jesus.
Perdue told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he has been putting up the signs for the past three years, and the ads have always included some type of message about Jesus: "Celebrate Jesus," and "Experience Jesus," and, now, "Jesus is Lord."
Perdue's contract with the city for his 20 bench signs ends on July 10.
"Don't we have the freedom of speech in the United States of America?" Perdue told the newspaper. "Isn't that a Constitutional right?"
From the city's perspective, the issue is not about freedom of speech, but rather a specific religion being advertised on city property, which might be viewed by some as an endorsement.
Perdue said that he has contacted the mayor's office, City Council, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian-based law firm.
Perdue also posted about his predicament on his Facebook page June 25, and received strong support from Christian commentators:
"Jesus is the name above all names! Including whoever complained and the city metro whatever they are called. For Heaven's sake, they are only a bus service!"
"Jesus is the only name by which mankind can be saved. He's coming soon and will later come to rule with a rod of iron wether you like it or not you had better learn to like it, otherwise Tough!"
"We stand with you Pastor Lawson and agree with you that Jesus is Lord and His name will prevail in this battle!"