CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. – Some residents believe that a controversial billboard on Interstate 40 in North Carolina by a religious group in support of President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban on Muslim-majority countries has gone too far.
The sign in Catawba County refers to the 9/11 attack and those behind it.
Residents of nearby Claremont and Catawba are talking about its message.
“I think the numbers are powerful enough in themselves,” one supporter said. “So, if you look at it and think something is wrong about it, it makes you wonder about you.”
Oliver Reitzell opposes the billboard.
“I believe in the Christian way, and that’s to embrace everybody,” Reitzell said. “Kind of the hate message behind it, I’m not for that.”
The North Carolina Pastors Network paid for the sign and claims to have support from 600 ministers across the state.
The organization is headed by evangelist Dave Kistler, who doesn’t believe that the billboard’s message is one of hate.
“I’m saying it now that this is not what this is about,” Kistler said. “There’s certainly nothing hateful in our billboard. Some have interpreted it to be that and say that. It was not. It is the truth.”
But Paul Cummings, an associate pastor at the Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, believes that the billboard contradicts teachings from the Bible.
“My opinion is that I think these people need the saving gospel of Jesus more than I need to be protected,” Cummings said. “I’m perfectly willing for people who are hostile to us to be in our country, because that’s what loving your enemy is all about.”
Veteran Andrew Katocs, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t see how the billboard and its message are helping.
“That billboard, it sounds like somebody is trying to cause some issues that don’t need to be worried about now,” Katocs said.
The religious group said it has no plans to take down the billboard.