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Islamophobia: Church sign sparks debate - Daily Courier, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Church sign sparks debate By JOSH HUMPHRIES Daily Courier Staff Writer http://www.thedigitalcourier.com/articles/2005/05/24/news/news01.txt FOREST CITY -- A
    Message 1 of 1 , May 24, 2005
      Church sign sparks debate
      By JOSH HUMPHRIES Daily Courier Staff Writer

      http://www.thedigitalcourier.com/articles/2005/05/24/news/news01.txt

      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
      right."

      Seema Riley, a Muslim, who was born in Pakistan and
      reared in New York, was one of those upset by the
      sign.

      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
      and threatened.

      "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
      Radio.

      "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
      me."

      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
      Afghanistan.

      "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
      organization.

      "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
      sign."

      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
      was posted.

      "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
      heaven?'"

      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.

      Contact Humphries via e-mail at
      jhumphries@...






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