FFRF successful in the removal of “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” sign.

After a long period of controversy and conversation, a sign meant to welcome people to a town of just over 1,000 people in northeast Texas is coming down. A sign saying “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” was erected in the tiny community of Hawkins, Texas in 2011. It will be taken down after months of letters, reports, and surveys have proven that the presence of the sign on public property is unconstitutional and violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an organization devoted to upholding the First Amendment’s prohibition of the respecting of any individual religion. After learning about the sign, the FFRF wrote a letter to the city of Hawkins in June, asking that the sign be removed because it was advocating for Christianity by the city.

According to a news release from the FFRF, the response from the Mayor of Hawkins, Will Rogers, was less than positive. “Mayor Will Rogers reacted negatively to the letter, making such statements as ‘Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe.’”

After hearing that the existence and presence of the sign was in potential jeopardy, many citizens of Hawkins posted their own smaller versions of the “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” signs on their lawns and petitioned the city council to keep the sign where it was on public property, according to the Friendly Atheist.

The Hawkins City Council responded to the letter by the FFRF more constructively than some of its citizens, and certainly better than its mayor. Instead of responding directly to the FFRF in letter form to defend and justify the presence of the sign, the Hawkins City Council conducted a land survey to determine whether or not the “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” sign was, in fact, on the City of Hawkins public property.

After the land survey was conducted and determined that the sign was indeed on public property, the Hawkins City Council made the decision to remove the sign. Although this decision certainly won’t have made Mayor Will Rogers, the most vocal opponent of the sign’s removal, happy, the Hawkins City Council made a decision that not only prevents any future controversies over an admittedly controversial sign, but it also ensures that this little town of 1300 people will stay out of the media in a negative way, particularly in a world where religious sensitivities are at its height, and the issue of public monuments and signs regarding religious preference are frequently in the news and the courtroom.

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