In the small town of Hawkins, Texas, a yellow and purple sign greets visitors with the words, “Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins.” Over the last few months, this sign has stirred religious debate between Christian groups and atheists.
One of the most vocal atheist groups, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, recently sent a letter of complaint to city council officials claiming that the billboard “conveys a government preference for religion over nonreligion,” reports the Blaze.
The letter sent last June argues that because the sign stands on public property, it represents a violation of the separation of church and state and therefore should be removed.
On the other hand, many faithful residents have argued that they also have a right to stand up for their beliefs. Christian groups from all over Texas participated in a revival last Sunday night by singing, dancing and playing music near the sign.
"We decided that we need to stand up for the civil liberties of Christians in America to say we have as much freedom of speech as anyone else," supporter Justin Lane told KYTX-TV, reports The Blaze.
There is some debate over whether the billboard is indeed on public property or on land owned by Hawkins Mayor Will Rogers. Either way, Rogers is in support of the sign and claims it was a community project that the city council unanimously approved, according to PoliticsUSA.
“Jesus represents billions of people … [He] is a part of every major religion in the world, so you can’t pin one religion on Jesus,” Rogers said.
His point has opponents of the sign shaking their heads and raising the question, What if the sign read something else? The FFRF suggested the city council consider how people would feel about a sign that read, “Mohammed welcomes you to Hawkins,” or, “No god welcomes you to Hawkins.”
A decision about what to do with the sign is still unclear as Monday night’s city council meeting determined that more time is needed to study the issue. Residents will have to wait a bit longer, but it is clear that both sides will not back down without a fight.