A church’s sign welcoming passersby to Hawkins, Texas, is no longer on display following a lengthy legal battle with the nation’s largest atheist group.
The sign, which said: “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” was taken down on June 28.
In 2015, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed in a letter to city officials that the sign delivered a message that it “prefers Christianity over other religions.” The FFRF called for the sign’s removal and in the four years that followed the city of Hawkins and the church, on whose property the sign was located, were locked in a legal battle.
Hawkins has a population of just over 1,300 residents, Fox News reported. “The sign … was put up in 2015 in front of a Hawkins coffeehouse, on property owned by Jesus Christ Open Altar Church. Until it was taken down, members of the flock stood watch over the “Jesus” banner.”
After waking up to find out the sign was removed, church trustee Mark McDonald told a Texas newspaper that it was police who notified them of the sign’s removal.
“The city employees destroyed our church property, pulled up our crosses and destroyed everything,” McDonald told the Longview News-Journal on Friday.
“We’re treating it like a hate crime of religious discrimination that was conspired by the city. We have enough documents to prove that,” McDonald added. “The city was warned (Thursday) by our attorneys not to touch it and not to bother it. There’s been closed meetings, closed records (and) a lot of things wrong.”
Church officials argued that the property was acquired from two funeral homes and the sign was on their property. However, city officials said the funeral home was not legally supposed to sell the properties which makes the city the rightful owner.
After a four-year legal battle, the city reportedly took down the sign with no warning or resolution to build a municipal street in its place, according to Hawkins City Secretary Dona Jordan.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law