It’s a stark, simple message on a black billboard – just 15 words, but it is creating controversy in Catawba County, North Carolina.
The county, which has voted Republican since it went for a fourth term for Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, is deep in western North Carolina in NASCAR and bluegrass territory, and many of its residents find the message to be contrary to the Christian values that are the bedrock of the small town communities within the county.
President Trump won Catawba County 66.8 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 29.3 percent, so it might have been expected that the residents would support his travel ban, but their staunch religious beliefs appear to override any concern about the dangers posed by unvetted immigration.
The North Carolina Pastors Network is noted on the billboard as the sponsor and stands by the message despite some residents finding it offensive and even “unchristian.”
Residents of nearby Claremont and Catawba are talking about the sign on Interstate 40 that traverses the state from the Raleigh-Durham area through Winston-Salem and west to Knoxville, Tennessee.
Oliver Reitzell opposes the billboard on religious grounds.
“I believe in the Christian way, and that’s to embrace everybody. Kind of the hate message behind it, I’m not for that.”
An associate pastor at the Corinth Reformed Church in the town of Hickory goes a step further and says the billboard actually contradicts Biblical teaching and sees the presence of non-Christians as an opportunity to preach the gospel to them.
“My opinion is that I think these people need the saving gospel of Jesus more than I need to be protected,” Cummings said But Paul Cummings.
“I’m perfectly willing for people who are hostile to us to be in our country, because that’s what loving your enemy is all about.”
Evangelist Dave Kistler, who heads up the North Carolina Pastors Network disagrees and says there is “nothing hateful” in the message on the billboard.
“Some have interpreted it to be that and say that. It was not. It is the truth.”