Mayor: Generic Jesus fits all faiths

“To me and many others, Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe,” Will Rogers, mayor of Hawkins, Texas, told KLTV in early June. “He’s in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism.”

To Rogers, Jesus is “the most Googled and most popular man in the world.” The mayor, who owns a coffee shop next to a “Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins” sign on city property, spoke out after getting a June 1 letter from FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover about “inflammatory and inappropriate” government endorsement of religion. Imagine the public’s reaction to a sign saying “Mohammed Welcomes You To Hawkins’ or “No God Welcomes You To Hawkins,” wrote Grover.

Students in the high school shop class built the 18-foot-wide sign, which was put up in 2011 before Rogers was mayor of the town of about 1,300 people. He was part of the community group that requested permission to use city land for the sign. Rogers said the city council has debated leasing the property that the sign sits on to a private party. That would not cure the constitutional violation, especially given the sign’s history, Grover said.

It replaced a First Baptist Church marker after representatives of the dozen or so area Christian churches agreed the Jesus sign represented everyone, reported KLTV.

Not everyone agrees. The Big Sandy Hawkins Journal quoted a “local Christian” who wished to remain anonymous: “The sign is showing favoritism and speaking where the Bible is silent. It is presumptuous to assume Jesus welcomes anyone to anywhere but church, especially to a specific town on Earth.”

Rogers said he thinks Hawkins could win in court. That’s not at all likely, Grover said, citing multiple cases in which appellate courts have ruled otherwise.

The council heard input from both sides at its June 15 meeting. One man who wants the sign to stay said, “I say come and take it, baby. Draw the line.” An atheist said, “It doesn’t matter what the majority says, we live in a constitutional republic. The constitutional republic is there to keep the majority from becoming too powerful.”

Before the meeting, Rogers told KLTV, “If you don’t believe that Jesus existed, then he would be fiction. If he’s fiction, and you want to remove his name from everything, then you have to remove every fiction name from across the country.

That means we couldn’t say ‘Superman welcomes you to town.’ ”

The council voted to survey the property to see if the sign is in fact on city property.

Freedom From Religion Foundation