- (Photo: Jamie Wilson via KSAT 12 News)
A message put on the sign of an interdenominational church in Texas referring to President Barack Obama as a "Muslim" and a "Communist" has garnered controversy.
Church in the Valley, a congregation situated in Leakey, posted a message on their marquee sign reading: "Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim! The capitalist, not the communist!"
According to local media, members of the church self-described themselves as "right-wing" and "conservative," and say that the sign has gotten mostly positive feedback.
The Rev. Sam Hunnicut, pastor at nearby Hunt United Methodist Church, told The Christian Post that, speaking for himself rather than his congregation, the sign had fulfilled a negative purpose.
"It is my opinion that Church in the Valley's sign has accomplished its intended purpose, namely to draw attention to itself and to provoke and incite," said Hunnicut. "Further it is my opinion that a sign of this nature, and the underlying theology which motivates it is perhaps not that dissimilar from Westboro Baptist; or any of a number of fundamentalist groups who have chosen to identify themselves as 'Christian.'"
Hunnicut also told CP that he believed that churches should not tell their surrounding community who they should vote for.
"I believe strongly in their Constitutional right as individuals to freely express their ideas, views and opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with them," said Hunnicut.
"It is also my opinion that, as the state has no business meddling in the affairs of the Church; the Church as an entity or organization violates that same line of separation when it begins to dictate to its constituency, or to presume to tell a community how they should or must vote," added Hunnicut, whose church's marquee sign presently reads "Study! Pray! Vote!"
Mark Spaniel, pastor at First Baptist Church of Leakey, told The Christian Post that he has known the congregation of Church in the Valley and its head pastor Ray Miller for over two decades.
"They are among the best people and most conscientious believers I've ever known … Many will likely demonize him and his congregation because of the quote on the sign," said Spaniel.
"But if this is their only measure of what this congregation is about, they've missed the heart and soul of a godly and loving group that possibly does more in terms of outreach ministry than all the other churches of Leakey combined."
Spaniel emphasized to CP the many philanthropic efforts that Church in the Valley and its head pastor engage in on a regular basis.
"Pastor Ray is never afraid to speak out, but neither is he afraid of taking on the most difficult of ministry situations, including taking prisoners released after serving their time into his own home to make sure that they become discipled and grounded enough to make it on their own," said Spaniel.
"If Ray is not everyone's cup of tea, then neither was Charles H. Spurgeon."
The sign about Obama was not the first time Church in the Valley has gotten attention beyond their doors with the messages they promote. In the past, one posted message read "Claim crack heads, welfare cases, illegal immigrants and Congress as dependents on your tax form."
According to a poll released in July by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 17 percent of Americans believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Only 49 percent knew that the President was Christian.
Church in the Valley of Leakey did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.