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'Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins' Sign Stays Up as City Delays Decision to Take It Down Amid Threats of Lawsuit From Nation's Largest Atheist Group

'Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins' Sign Stays Up as City Delays Decision to Take It Down Amid Threats of Lawsuit From Nation's Largest Atheist Group

Sign in Hawkins, Texas | KLTV screen shot

A city in Texas has delayed a decision on what to do regarding an atheist group's complaint leveled against a "Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins" sign said to be on public property.

The Hawkins City Council met with the mayor Monday evening and decided to table a decision as to whether or not they will remove the prominently displayed sign.

"Residents will have to wait a bit longer, as members put off a decision on the sign," reported CBS 19, who noted that the meeting had an "overflow crowd."

"The city attorney said he needs more time to study the issue, and determine whether the sign sits on private or public property."

The "Jesus Welcomes You" sign was built through private donations and placed on city property in 2011.

In June, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest atheist organization, sent a letter of complaint to Hawkins over the sign.

FFRF staff attorney Sam Grover told the Hawkins City Council that the large "Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins" sign was "inappropriate an unconstitutional."

"Because the sign is on public land, it is not protected as private speech, even if it was donated to the city," wrote Grover.

"We ask that the city immediately remove the 'Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins' sign and refrain from displaying any messages that endorse religion or nonreligion in the future."

Later that month, Hawkins Mayor Will Rogers stated that he supported the sign and believed that if sued the city could win in the courts.

"What violation is it for someone to welcome you into a town?" asked Rogers at a city meeting in June.

"If you don't believe that Jesus existed then He would be fiction. … If he's fiction, and you want to remove His name from everything, then you have to remove every fiction name from across the country. That means we couldn't say 'Superman welcomes you to town.'"

The day before the Monday evening meeting, local media reported that Christian groups throughout East Texas were holding a "revival" in support of the sign.

"The small town of Hawkins has been anything but quiet in the recent months," according to Gerardo Martinez of CBS 19.

"Christian groups from all across East Texas sang and danced by the 'Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins' sign during a revival Sunday night to show their support for it."

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