If you’ve ever driven through Hondo, you’ve probably read the large green sign that greets visitors. The twenty-something-year-old sign reads “This is God’s country. Please don’t drive through it like Hell.”
Though it’s an icon in the East Texas town, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation — a national organization dedicated to the separation of church and state — has called for the sign’s removal. FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Hondo mayor James Danner in a letter that the city should find a different way to promote safe driving.
It is inappropriate for the City of Hondo to display religious signs that convey government preference for religion over non-religion. The display of the religious message “THIS IS GOD’S COUNTRY” on public property violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public grounds from advancing, supporting, or promoting religion. It is also needlessly divisive.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, a formal response from the city is being drafted by its legal counsel — though it’s not likely they have any intentions of humoring FFRF’s request.
“There’s no way in hell we’re going to take those signs down,” Danner said.
Though it’s still unclear whether FFRF will sue Hondo, this isn’t the first time the organization has come down on a Texas town. The FFRF successfully forced East Texas town Hawkins to take down its “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” sign and ended a battle over a cross in a public park in Port Neches in a draw.
And in Austin, the FFRF sued Gov. Greg Abbott in February over his removal of its holiday display from the Texas State Capitol. He said the Nativity-inspired statue that shows three founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty worshiping on of America’s founding documents was a “juvenile parody.”
To read a more in-depth look at the Hondo situation, click here.