Land attorney: 'Jesus' sign does not sit on city property

Published: Aug. 5, 2015 at 7:36 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2017 at 11:49 PM CDT
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HAWKINS, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas attorney says a controversial 'Jesus' sign in Hawkins is on private property.

Real estate attorney Richard Roberts said in a letter addressed to Hawkins Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Kirkpatrick and Council member Norma Oglesby said that he researched the ownership of the property where the sign sits at Blackbourn Street and U.S. Highway 80.

The sign, which reads, "Jesus welcomes you to Hawkins," first came under scrutiny in June, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to pursue legal action if the sign was not removed. The organization said it objected to the sign, calling it unconstitutional. The FFRF says the sign violates constitutional and federal laws addressing separation of church and state.

READ MORE: East Texas city council postpones decision on future of 'Jesus' sign on highway

Roberts said he studied multiple titles over a 30-year period and found that the land where the sign sits is privately owned by either Mayor Will Rogers, who has a coffee business near the sign, or Crowley Funeral Home. Rogers, who released the letter to KLTV, said the attorney's findings were presented to the city council this past month.

Roberts addressed his findings, saying:

"Based on the foregoing, it appears to me that the Ash Street Tract is owned by Crowley Funeral Home, east of its center line, and by Will Rogers, west of the center line. It further appears that the sign would be on the funeral home's side of the center line, unless it were appropriate to shift the city plat 150 feet to the east, in which case the sign apparently would be on Mr. Roger's land. In any case, it appears that no part of the Ash Street Tract is owned by the City of Hawkins."

READ MORE: 'Jesus Welcomes you to Hawkins' signs multiply across city

However, documents at the Wood County Tax Records office show the property is owned by the city and is currently tax exempt.

On July 23, the FFRF said that even if the sign is determined to be on private property, it still is unconstitutional because the sign is owned by the city.

The council has not made a decision on whether to remove the sign.

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