A congregation in Virginia walked out during a service on Sunday in response to a sign outside of the church that garnered national attention. But the pastor is defending the sign, which read "America: Love or leave it."
Pastor E. W. Lucas changed the marquee outside Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox in defense of recent comments made by President Donald Trump. Last Sunday, the president tweeted that "'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen" should "go back... from which they came," targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Many were shocked by the racist rhetoric, while others were emboldened by it and chanted "send her back" during President Trump's campaign rally just days later.
During Sunday school service, some members of the Friendship Baptist Church congregation walked out to oppose the message that remains outside of the church.
Speaking with WSET, Lucas claims that the walkout was because members were upset the sign made headlines across the nation.
"I've tried to be honest," Lucas said. "I've tried to do what's right. But I believe in my country. I love my country. And I don't mind standing up for the country."
Pastor E. W. Lucas and his wife shared how he has put up signs since he started Friendship Baptist Church in 1979. “I thought I was going to make some remarks regarding the situation in Washington. It just came to me... ‘America, I love it. If you don’t love it, leave it.'" pic.twitter.com/xVEarle6Bd— Valencia E. Jones (@vjreports3) July 17, 2019
Last week, Lucas spoke with the local news station and said he planned to leave the sign "for a while" due to the "favorable comments" he received.
"I thought I was going to make some remarks regarding the situation in Washington," said Lucas. “It just came to me. I just said, ‘America, I love it. If you don’t love it, leave it."
Lucas continued: "People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country and everything, they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while."
As of Tuesday, Friendship Baptist Church's Facebook page has been deleted and their phone number has been disconnected.
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