After months of community turmoil and divisive religious pandering by the mayor of Hawkins, Texas, the city council voted Sept. 21 to remove a sign saying “Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins” from city property.
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover first sent a letter to the city in June, asking for removal of the sign due to its promotion of a Christian messag: The sign “sends a message to the city’s citizens that the Hawkins government is endorsing and compelling belief in a particular god.”
Mayor Will Rogers reacted negatively, making such statements as “Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe.” He also compared Jesus to Superman, stating, “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 need to remove every fiction name that there is across the country. That means we couldn’t say Superman welcomes you to town.”
Rogers also insisted that the sign was the idea of private citizens. It turns out that he composed the wording and had public school students paint it, magnifying the state/church entanglement.
The council, after ordering a land survey to verify that the sign was indeed on city property, voted to remove it and place it in storage within the next 30 days.
Grover noted, “Despite the absurdity of his statements, Rogers confused the issue enough so that many Hawkins residents became convinced that FFRF was targeting their private right to worship. Many posted their own ‘Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins’ signs on their lawns and petitioned the council to keep it, despite its clear illegality. FFRF, of course, has no problem with private citizens exercising their right to free speech. We did think it was odd that so many people were pretending to know that their god has strong, positive opinions about their town, but that’s beside the point.”