By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service
Arther Culpepper, a sheet-metal mechanic and part-time pastor in the South Texas town of Three Rivers, first noticed the billboard out of the corner of his eye.
He was driving south on U.S. Highway 281 — near the local Dairy Queen — when the message caught his attention: “Our religion doesn’t believe in hitting children.”
The sign was paid for by the Satanic Temple, a national group whose Protect Children Project takes aim at paddling in public schools.
“I kind of thought it was funny,” said Culpepper, who pastors at the nondenominational River of Life Worship Center. “Everybody in America has the right to rent a billboard if you want to rent a billboard.”
Free speech or not, many others in the town of 1,900 — about 75 miles south of San Antonio — expressed shock and outrage at the group’s message, which targets the Three Rivers school district board of trustees’ 6-o vote in July to reinstitute corporal punishment.
“The community is upset, not happy,” said Kevin Mackey, minister of the Three Rivers Church of Christ, which responded on its own sign: “Satan doesn’t own all the signs in (Three Rivers) — don’t let him own you.”
Lyn Means, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Three Rivers, echoes Mackey’s concern.
“I’m very sorry that the billboard has been posted in our town, especially in a city park where families and our children congregate,” Means said. “There’s not really anything I can do about it personally except pray for those people responsible for putting something like that up in our town.”
Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.