A group of churches collected donations to erect a warm “welcome” sign to greet those driving through the town. However, as soon as atheists saw the sign’s “offensive” message, they immediately demanded its removal or else they will sue.
In Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, the involvement of church members in their community is of the utmost importance. Along with drawing people in, making them feel accepted and loved is just as crucial as meeting their physical needs. This is undoubtedly why Christians give more charity per capita than any other group, religious or non-religious.
In an effort to assure the public that the church is always there for them in times of need without requiring anything in return, prayer houses often erect signs conveying this biblical value. Unfortunately, there are some who would rather the church keep its charity and care to itself.
In Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, several churches united to gather funds for a welcome sign, which would stand near the edge of the town to greet newcomers of all backgrounds. Considering that the sign wouldn’t include any aspect of the Christian faith, the churches never thought there would be any problem with them offering a warm reception to travelers passing through their town.
Unfortunately for them, their non-religious counterparts were waiting for an opportunity to shut them down. According to Fox 6, a group of atheist and agnostic activists threatened to sue the quiet town after local churches erected a small sign that simply reads, “The Churches of Oconomowoc Welcome You,” claiming that the message unconstitutionally discriminates against non-Christians.
The sign, which was established around 50 years ago, has drawn outrage from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is notorious for its legal attacks on poorer, defenseless religious institutions, Todd Starnes reports.
“It endorses religion over non-religion and Christianity over all other faiths,” FFRF attorney Ryan Jayne wrote in a letter to town leaders. “I’m sure they have the best intentions, but it sends a message that you are not a favorite citizen because the favorite citizens are Christian citizens, and the second problem is it violates the constitution,” Mr. Jayne told Fox 6.
Incredibly, Jayne and his organization have accused the churches of religious supremacism by posting a religious display on public property. He argued that it is the equivalent of mosques erecting a sign promoting Islam, which he asserted the same Christians wouldn’t tolerate.
“I think a lot of Christians would understand the problem with that,” he told the newspaper. “Because Christianity is the majority religion, I think it’s often difficult for people who are in that majority to understand why it feels that way.”
Fearing a devastating lawsuit, Oconomowoc Mayor David Nold confirmed that the city is consulting with attorneys to determine a course of action. He explained that they are reviewing the laws and deciding if the signs are actually on public property and, if they are, whether they promote religion.
Understandably, local residents are widely opposed to the removal of the sign. In fact, many have expressed confusion concerning the organization’s complaint, arguing that the sign’s message is as inclusive as it can be.
“That’s uh, that’s I can’t think of a word. What’s wrong with that? You welcome everybody,” said Jerry Johnson.
After hearing of the possible legal ramifications, the Wisconsin-based Institute for Law & Liberty responded to the town council. In an official letter, the institute urged them not to capitulate to the FFRF’s bullying.
“It takes something more than a sign put up by private parties reflecting a message of welcome to inflict constitutional injury,” president Richard Esenberg wrote in a letter obtained by the newspaper.
Fortunately, the legal threat has prompted the townspeople to unite in defense of the humble sign. However, the issue showcases the disturbing trend in Christians extending a warm welcome to non-Christians only to receive hostility and legal repercussions in return.