A group of Wisconsin atheists wants to dictate to the residents of an east Texas town how to live their lives. Either there’s nothing to do in Wisconsin when there’s no football, or someone got a hold of some bad cheese.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin is threatening legal action against the town of Hawkins, Texas for erecting a sign on city property that says “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins.”
The town of Hawkins sits on Highway 80, about 75 miles east of Dallas. The sign was installed four years ago, and at the time, was supported by the city council, the Chamber of Commerce, and numerous residents. Students from the local high school’s shop class helped make the sign.
Emily Guevara of The Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegraph provides more details of the letter the city and Mayor Will Rogers received from the Freedom from Religion Foundation:
In the letter, the foundation’s staff attorney, Sam Grover, asked the city to immediately remove the sign and “refrain from displaying any messages that endorse religion or non-religion in the future.”
Grover objects to the sign, calling it an “unconstitutional religious display on government property.”
He said a concerned local resident contacted the foundation and goes on to cite several Supreme Court cases that set precedents regarding the requirement for government neutrality when it comes to religion and non-religion.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the city of Hawkins to display the sign described above (in the letter), because it conveys both a government preference for religion over non-religion and prefers Christianity over other religions,” he writes.
Rogers said the sign does not belong to the city, although it is believed to sit on city property. Rather, it belongs to the community, which numbers about 1,300 people. Community members maintain it and decorate it. The city funds nothing for it, he said.
However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation rejects that idea.
“A reasonable observer would view the sign as an endorsement of the Christian religion by the city of Hawkins,” Grover wrote.
Mayor Rogers says a recent public meeting showed overwhelming support from residents in favor of the sign, who are upset that a group from Wisconsin is dictating their demands on them. Although the city has not decided how to respond, Rogers believes the city will win if they go to court to keep the sign.