HAWKINS, TX (KLTV) - Members of an East Texas community are responding to the controversy of a 18-ft sign on city property by making new signs. The city of Hawkins came under scrutiny in early June for a sign post that faces traffic on U.S. Highway 80 and reads "Jesus Welcomes you to Hawkins."
Wisconsin-based organization, Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has requested that the sign be removed because it represents a government preference for once religion over another.
"It creates the appearance that the city prefers Christians to those who practice minority religions or no religion at all," said FFRF attorney Sam Grover.
For Hawkins residents like Rhonda Lane, the sign represents community.
"We do want people to know that we do welcome Jesus," said Lane. "They took prayer out of schools, they're trying to remove mangers from lawns, the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, enough is enough."
As the debate over church and state grows within the town of 1,278, Lane said she is one of many who decided to create replicas of the sign and place it on t-shirts and signs. She said the demand for the "Jesus" paraphernalia reaches beyond Hawkins city limits.
"We've had people from Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana," said Lane. "They've said 'please, where can I get a t-shirt? We want one too."
Grover said FFRF has no problem with the influx of mini-Jesus welcome signs lining the lawns.
"It's fine for the people of Hawkins to individually put up signs on their property, about anything that they want including their religious beliefs," said Grover. "The only problem that we have is when the government is used to promote a religion. I would just like to remind those in Hawkins that the Constitution is there to protect the minority's voice from the tyranny of the majority."
Lane said she will not go against a court decision, even if it is unfavorable.
"I believe in following what the law says and if that is the decision that is reached by the courts then I will support it," Lane said. "However I will continue to sell these t-shirts to everyone that wants one."