It’s amazing how much trouble one sign can cause.
You may remember the 18-foot-wide “JESUS welcomes you to Hawkins” sign welcoming visitors to the Texas city. Because it was on government property, the Freedom From Religion Foundation had contacted Mayor Will Rogers back in June, but he resisted for a while. Despite his whining, though, the city council agreed the sign had to come down.
But that’s when the latest bit of wackiness began because it was unclear who owned the land on which the sign sat:
In August, the city attorney reviewed the situation and concluded that the sign sat on private property belonging to Crowley Funeral Home. However, as independent contractors contrarily determined that the sign is on public property, city council voted in September to remove the sign.
In other words, city officials didn’t know if the land was on private or public property. But they played it safe and voted to take down the sign.
Before they could do that, however, a local Christian named Mark McDonald created the Jesus Christ Open Altar Church and bought the funeral home’s land. According to him, he owned the land and the sign could stay put. If city officials dared to remove it, he would have them arrested.
Except the city still felt the sign was on public property, making his threats moot.
While they sort through the details, McDonald is making sure no one comes close to the sign. And the city is responding in kind:
Reports state the the church cordoned the sign off with tape and had members surrounding it at all hours to prevent the sign from being removed by the city.
Now, the Hawkins’ City Council has voted to sue Jesus Christ Open Altar Church over the matter, as well as Crowley Funeral Home, which it contends did not have rights to sell the land. City Attorney Alvin Flynn told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the city is suing the church to prevent a lawsuit from FFRF.
McDonald says he’s not giving up no matter what any judge tells him:
“I intend to fight this to the very end,” McDonald said, adding he intends to appeal as many times as necessary should the court rule in the city’s favor.
So let’s recap:
The city was going to be sued by FFRF for having the sign on government property. They did the right thing by voting to remove it.
Now a local Christian claims he owns that land, and he’s threatening to sue the city if the sign is removed.
This will ultimately be settled in court, but it may take a while. City officials may want to invest in Tylenol for all the headaches they’re having.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here laughing because none of this would have happened if local leaders just had the wisdom a few years ago to reject the sign to begin with.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier.)