A new billboard went up Monday in Rutherford County that's aimed at a controversy that has divided the county.
Against a plain background that fills up the advertising space are four words that say, “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.”
The sign on the Lamar Advertising billboard on Hwy 231 by the E. E. Miller overpass went up shortly after 9 a.m. Monday.
The space was bought last month by Sojourners, a group out of Washington DC that calls itself a network of “social justice Christians.”
In announcing the billboard in a statement, Sojourners said, “In light of the recent acts of violence and vandalism against religious minorities across the country, Sojourners is calling on Christians to stand up against the hatred.”
Last month, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro opened the first phase of a mosque constructed just outside the Murfreesboro city limits in Rutherford County.
While it was being built, construction equipment and signs were vandalized, along with the FBI arrest of a Texas man who was accused of making a terrorism phone threat against the mosque.
A lawsuit that questioned how the mosque was approved and where it's funding came from divided Rutherford County for nearly two years before a federal court allowed its eventual construction and building occupancy last month.
Two men working at a construction company in the shadow of the sign reflected the views of many in Rutherford County.
“I think they ought to take it down, that's my opinion,” said Toby Oakley as he looked at the billboard in the background.
“I got a lot of friends who are [serving] in the Middle East, and here we are, we got 'em over here, that is what I think,” he added.
His buddy James Wolfe looked up at the billboard and saw things differently.
“I think you should love everybody,” he said. “There are some things that we may not agree with, doesn't mean you got to hate somebody.”
One of the donors to the Washington DC group is Father Rick Britton of Nashville's St. Ann's Episcopal Church
“As we travel along the way and we see that billboard, I hope it will have people of good faith, and people of a moral base just to think about what it means to be the family of God,” the Reverend told Nashville's News 2.
The Sojourners group has put up billboards with similar messages in other states, targeting areas that have demonstrated some hostility to Muslims.
The first billboard was installed in Joplin, Missouri near a mosque that burned down possibly at the hands of an arsonist.
The next appeared in Oak Creek, Wisconsin after a shooting at a Sikh temple.
- Sept. 15, 2012: Billboard supporting mosque to go up this month