Residents of a tiny Texas town awoke to find that their beloved “Jesus Welcomes You” sign had been uprooted in the middle of the night by the city council. However, instead of taking it lying down, the feisty church members decided to pay them a little visit.
The northeastern Texas town of Hawkins boasts deep roots embedded in America’s Judeo-Christian founding. As a symbol of the community’s values, the town erected a sign that reads “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins,” which has greeted visitors on Highway 80 since 2015. Despite the sign presenting no problem for several years, the city council recently took issue with its presence, ordering the Jesus Christ Open Altar Church to remove it.
When the church refused, the city made it their mission to tear down the display, forcing the congregation to take turns standing watch over the sign. However, they never expected that the city would hire government workers to sneak over in the dead of night and snatch the church’s banner.
The Longview News-Journal reports that the city council dismissed the community’s outrage over having torn down the sign, insisting that it’s their property, according to Hawkins City Secretary Dona Jordan. However, the congregation is indignant that the city would stoop to such levels, claiming that the plot of land actually belongs to the church itself.
“We are fixing to put a street in on our easement,” Jordan said. “That is our platted street.”
Believing that the church would eventually accept their fate, the city ignored their complaints. Seeing that their civil servants were no longer representing its constituents, the church has boldly announced that they are filing a religious discrimination lawsuit against the council, accusing them of committing an anti-Christian hate crime, church trustee Mark McDonald confirmed.
“The city employees destroyed our church property, pulled up our crosses and destroyed everything,” McDonald said. He said he was notified of the action by police. “We’re treating it like a hate crime of religious discrimination that was conspired by the city. We have enough documents to prove that,” McDonald said. “The city was warned (Thursday) by our attorneys not to touch it and not to bother it. There’s been closed meetings, closed records (and) a lot of things wrong.”
Although the city repeatedly ignored the legal advice of attorneys to undermine the church’s alleged right to the land, they’re certainly paying attention now. McDonald claims that the city is under investigation for numerous legal violations and will face voters in court.
“I’ve got eight open records violations alleged against the city,” McDonald said. “They were in full knowledge that they were violating the law.”
The Christian majority is finding itself more of a target than ever before. Unconstitutional legislation is forcing churches to violate their biblical beliefs. Typically, small towns and close-knit communities have proven themselves to be formidable forces against the tyranny of government overreach. However, some are finding that they have no choice but to fight fire with fire.
While citizens have no issue with the sign, Chief of Police Manfred Gilow says that the sign just recently became a safety hazard, as drivers apparently need “90-degree access to the highway.” The city argued that it has held an easement on the property since 1909. However, the church maintains that the city abandoned its interest in the plot in 1994, which allegedly nullifies their claim on the title.
Until the city and church face off in court, the community remains divided. The city is beginning construction on the proposed turn, which will cut through the property. Still, the church isn’t about to give in without a fight. Only time will tell whether the court will side with the supercilious city council or the indignant congregation.