by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A sign declaring “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” alongside Interstate 80 in Hawkins, Texas, has been taken down after a four-year legal battle between the city and the Jesus Christ Open Altar Church.
The sign, which stood on property purchased by the church from two funeral homes, came under fire when the city announced its intention to use the plot of land for a construction project connecting two highways, arguing that the city had always been the rightful owner of the property.
“The city was warned (Thursday) by our attorneys not to touch it and not to bother it. There’s been closed meetings, closed records (and) a lot of things wrong,” said church trustee Mark McDonald, who, along with other members, have been employed in protecting the cross in shifts, according to the Longview News-Journal.
“The city employees destroyed our church property, pulled up crosses, and destroyed everything,” he said Friday after the cross was removed clandestinely overnight.
City officials argue the sign constitutes a hazard to drivers on the nearby highway, but Mike Berry, chief of staff to First Liberty Institute, noted that a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation had been mixed up in the equation, and may have influenced the decision by city officials to finally go through with the long-disputed removal.
“FFRF has made its living roaming around the country trying to bully government officials into purging religious symbols from the public square—exactly what the US Supreme Court said should not be done,” said Berry, referring to a decision made two weeks ago by the land’s highest court that a presumption of constitutionality ought to be afforded longstanding religious monuments.
McDonald said he and the church plan to file a federal lawsuit to fight the city’s decision.
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