The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, and a local pastor are speaking out against a church's sign that tells black people not to worship at white churches as part of its opposition to a megachurch's plan to plant a campus in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods.
The sign at the predominantly-black New Era Baptist Church reads: "BLACK FOLKS NEED TO STAY OUT OF WHITE CHURCHES. On the other side, the sign states: "WHITE FOLKS REFUSED TO BE OUR NEIGHBORS."
The sign was put up by Pastor Michael R. Jordan, a black pastor who is accusing a nearby megachurch of racism. The pastor told WVTM 13 that he put up the sign in response to plans by the state's largest megachurch to plant a "white church in a black neighborhood under the umbrella, supposedly, to fight crime."
Jordan claimed the real reason the Church of the Highlands wants the new church plant is because "they have too many black folks at their main campus and they want them to leave and come to a church in the inner city."
However, not all African-Americans in the town are appreciative of Jordan's sign.
Mayor Randall Woodfin, a 36-year-old who assumed office in 2017, took to his Twitter page on Tuesday to voice his views on the sign and to call for racial unity.
"There is a spirit of racism and division that is over this city. It must be brought down," the tweet states. "We have to change the conversation to what we need it to evolve into."
Woodfin continued by quoting the words of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr: 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Steven Hoyt, an African-American city councilman who is also a pastor at Mount Carmel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Adamsville, issued similar thoughts in an interview with WVTM 13.
"It doesn't help us when we have churches who put up this kind of language," he was quoted as saying. "If this was a white church, we would have some problems."
According to WVTM 13, Jordan does not plan to take down the sign.
The Church of the Highlands announced on April 29 that it would begin a new church plant in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods in the fall.
The Rev. Mayo Sowell, an African-American former professional football player who knows what it's like to spend time in prison for intent to sell cocaine, will be the new campus pastor, according to Church of the Highlands founder Chris Hodges.
"It is gonna be awesome and we're gonna reach the drug dealers and we'll get the crime to stop," Hodges said. "Come on everybody, we're gonna be the local church."
Despite Sowell's lead at the new campus, Jordan believes Sowell will be merely "a token" and claimed that Sowell's "white administrators" will "boss him."