Pastor defends Trump with 'America: Love or leave it' sign amid furor over 'go back' remarks

Pastor E. W. Lucas
Pastor E. W. Lucas (inset) of Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va., and his controversial sign. |

A Virginia pastor has sparked controversy with a church sign that reads, “America: Love or leave it” as furor ramped up this week over controversial tweets from President Donald Trump telling four congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from.

“I thought I was going to make some remarks regarding the situation in Washington. It just came to me... ‘America, I love it. If you don’t love it, leave it,’” Pastor E. W. Lucas of Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox told ABC 13.

He said while the sign has been causing quite a stir in the community, many people support the sentiments behind it so he decided to leave it up.

"Since we’ve had favorable comments on it, I thought I’d just leave it a while," said Lucas who has been putting up signs with his wife since 1979. "People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country and everything, they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while."

Referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., in the series of tweets Sunday, President Trump used language some identified as a racist trope to tell them they should “go back” to the countries they came from and "help fix the totally broken and crime infested places" and "then come back and show us how it is done" rather than “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States” how to run the government. It has since been noted that all but one of the women – Omar – were born in America.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump said in the tweets.

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar |

The House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump’s tweet as racist after a bitter and partisan brawl but the president doubled down on his message Wednesday at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina.

“If they don’t love [America], tell them to leave it,” Trump said of his critics in what was seen as a clear reference to the four congresswomen known as “The Squad” whom he attacked individually during the rally.

“The radical Democrats are trying to destroy all of our country’s tremendous success,” Trump said. “The leading voices of the Democrat Party are left-wing extremists who reject everything our country stands for.”

Like Trump’s tweets, Pastor Lucas’ sign has sparked much debate in his community and online. And while many support the sentiments behind it not everyone agrees.

"It’s up to each individual person," William Thompson, a resident of Appomattox, told ABC 13. "Ultimately, if we have problems, we should try to fix it. Support is the biggest thing we need. Support and fix.”

Other critics of the phrase like The American Centrist wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘Love it or leave it’ has a long and dark history, but it’s premise is as un-American as you can get. America is a story of ideals and of perpetual progress, and generations upon generations of people standing up to criticize it has been what has brought us here today.”

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