cf4b612ba65ede550810b1dc3cbe9b01

Will Rogers, Mayor of Hawkins, Texas defends “Jesus Welcomes You” sign against the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The town of Hawkins in Texas welcomes visitors with a unique sign that reads “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins.” Because the sign is on government property, however, a legal dispute has erupted on the legality of what some consider an unlawful endorsement of religion. The Freedom From Religious Foundation (FFRF) views the sign as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it conveys a preference for Christianity over other religions and for religion over non-religion.

Will Rogers, mayor of Hawkins, stressed that there was no specific religious intent when the town set up the sign welcoming visitors in Jesus’ name. He told CBS that the sign was approved by the City Council years ago and was a community effort. The Hawkins ISD shop built the sign, and donations were gathered to pay for the sign.

After a resident’s complaint, the Freedom From Religious Foundation has sent a letter to Hawkins town officials, stating that the Jesus sign welcoming visitors to Hawkins is “an unconstitutional religious display on government property.” The organization stressed that their purpose is to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and has asked the city council to remove the sign. Mayor Rogers told KLTV that Hawkins doesn’t have the money to battle the Freedom from Religious Foundation in a court of law, but he thinks the city would win.

Rogers underlined that the sign isn’t welcoming visitors to any particular church. He stated that Jesus is “the most googled and most popular man in the world.” Local residents told KLTV that the sign represents their community, and that they want it to stay put. Hawkins city council is to discuss the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Hawkins is located in Wood County, Texas. The city’s population was 1,278 at the 2010 census. The Freedom From Religious Foundation was founded in 1978. Based in Madison, Wisconsin, it is the largest national organization in the United Stated advocating for non-theists and educating the public on atheism, agnosticism, and nontheism.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter