Islamophobia: Church sign sparks debate - Daily Courier, USA
- Church sign sparks debate
By JOSH HUMPHRIES Daily Courier Staff Writer
FOREST CITY -- A sign in front of a Baptist church on
one of the most traveled highways in the county
stirred controversy over religious tolerance and
first-amendment rights this weekend.
A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located
at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads "The Koran needs to be
flushed," and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of
the church, is not apologizing for the display.
"I believe that it is a statement supporting the word
of God and that it (the Bible) is above all and that
any other religious book that does not teach Christ as
savior and lord as the 66 books of the Bible teaches
it, is wrong," said Lovelace. "I knew that whenever we
decided to put that sign up that there would be people
who wouldn't agree with it, and there would be some
that would, and so we just have to stand up for what's
Seema Riley, a Muslim, who was born in Pakistan and
reared in New York, was one of those upset by the
She moved to Rutherford County for the "small town
friendly" atmosphere, she said. When she saw the sign
on the side of the highway Saturday she felt angered
"We need a certain degree of tolerance," said Riley.
"That sign doesn't really reflect what I think this
county is about."
She said that according to Islamic faith, a follower
does not even touch the Koran without going through a
ritual cleansing. Muslims believe the physical book to
be a sacred item that is treated with respect and
reverence, much like the image of Jesus in
Christianity, according to a report on National Public
"For someone to put that sign up -- the person just
didn't understand -- didn't take into consideration
what putting up that sign means," said Riley. "I don't
think it should be posted on a sign in public viewing
on the highway to create a hostile environment for
The appearance of the sign follows a national news
story from last week. Newsweek magazine retracted a
story reporting that military guards at the U.S.
prison at Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran
down the toilet during interrogation of a detainee.
The Newsweek story sent Washington in a frenzy and was
blamed for igniting Muslim riots and deaths abroad,
including a particularly violent outburst in
"Our creed as a Christian, or a Protestant, or a
Baptist church -- of course we don't have a creed but
the bible -- but we do have the Baptist faith and
message that says that we should cling to the 66 books
of the Holy Bible and any other book outside of that
claiming to know the way of God or claiming to be
God's word is automatically written off and is trying
to defeat people from the way of true righteousness
inside of our viewpoint in how we view the word of
God," Lovelace said.
"Putting such a sign in a public place is an
un-American example of intolerance, of aggressive
disrespect for other citizens' deeply held views,"
said Donald Searing, Burton Craige Professor of
Political Science at the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. "This is the sort of attitude and
action that seriously endangers the liberty which lies
at the heart of our democracy. It is also a good
reminder that just because one may have the legal
right to say something, doing so may not be morally,
socially or politically desirable."
When Lovelace was asked whether he considered before
he put the sign up that there may be some consequences
or that some people may be angered, he said he was
aware of the likelihood of angering some people.
"Well, I thought about it and I said there may be
people who are offended by it but the way I look at
it, Jesus told his followers that if the world hates
you, don't feel bad because they hated me first," said
Lovelace. "If we stand for what is right and for God's
word and for Christianity then the world is going to
condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I
said 'well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we
must be doing something right.'"
Danieltown Baptist Church belongs to the Sandy Run
Baptist Association and the association's Director of
Missions the Rev. Jim Diehl said that Lovelace's
opinion does not necessarily reflect that of that
"Each of the churches of the Sandy Run Baptist
Association are autonomous bodies," said Diehl. "Each
church can develop a stance on doctrinal issues and
can develop its own stance on moral issues."
The Rev. Billy Honeycutt, of the Green River Baptist
Association said that he hopes that those who see the
sign keep tolerance in mind.
"Respecting religion is important and respecting other
people is important," said Honeycutt. "Hopefully, a
lot of people will have that thought when they see the
Following the religious controversy at a church in
Waynesville where several members were asked to leave
in what was termed a dispute over politics, several
groups threatened to boycott the entire town due to
the actions of one preacher.
Director of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce
Bill Hall said he does not think that the Danieltown
sign will have a negative impact on the county's
tourism or economic vitality.
"It is unfortunate that things like that happen and it
certainly doesn't represent Rutherford County," said
Hall. "I think that most people will understand that
that is not a common attitude in this community."
Lovelace said he felt it was the work of God to
display the sign and that no one in the church has
spoken up against it to him.
He said the church has 55 members on the roster and he
has only received one angry phone call since the sign
"We have a good group of people," said Lovelace.
Lovelace said the sign changes every week.
"About Friday or Saturday we will have a new sign," he
said. "It should state to some effect 'Where are your
treasures? Are they at the flea market or are they in
Lovelace said that he does not have anything against
the flea market that recently opened up down the
street from the church.
"I enjoy a good flea market, but if people can be down
there at eight o'clock why can't they be at church at
11," he said.
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