COLUMBUS, Ga. and AUBURN, Ala. – As one drives through the Chattahoochee Valley, they may see a sign for a business with a religious quote on it.
Some of the businesses that meet that criteria are the Midas on 13th street in Columbus and CT Automotive in Auburn.
News 3 wanted to learn if the business owners face pressure for having the signs.
Charles Sutton, the owner of the Midas says 15 years ago, his sign looked a little different. “In the past, we didn’t have the reader part,” Sutton said. “Once we got it up, I was praying one day and God asked me to use it as a witness.”
Since then, the sign has gone through changes. Some of the sayings on his sign from the past include: “Why worry? Pray,” “Send God a Kneemail” and numerous others. Sutton says he gets his inspiration for the signs through prayer, customers and employees from the shop. Michael Brazier has worked with Sutton for nine years. “I love it,” Brazier said. “Actually, I get a lot of calls in every couple of days or so from people saying they love the sign. It gives them good inspiration as well, and they enjoy the sign every time they pass by for work.”
Sutton says in 10 years, four people have complained about the sign. He says one person called the corporate office saying that the sign needed to be taken down at the end of the day. They told him that it is his sign and he can do with it what he chooses. Sutton does not see the sign coming down, but he knows what to do if he is asked to take it down. “I’ll tell you what I told corporate. Y’all will have to come and take it down, but by the time you make it around the block, it’ll be back up.”
Chris Taylor is the owner of CT Automotive in Auburn. Religious quotes have been on his sign since he opened the store. Just like Sutton, he gets his quotes from prayer and customers. He says since he’s had the sign, he has not had anyone complain about the sign. Taylor says that the signs are uplifting for believers and unbelievers. “Somebody who is having a hard day that their car just broke down and that’s the last thing they needed to have happen or they just got it fixed and it broke down again or they are having trouble at work, or trouble with the kids and they come in and the car is not as bad as it seems or different things like that, it just gives them some encouraging,” Taylor said.
Taylor, just like Sutton does not think about the sign coming down.
Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon says if the country continues on the path that it is on now, the signs could come under threat. Senator McKoon says that House Bill 757, also known as the Free Exercise Protection Act passed both houses, but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal. Had the three pronged bill not been vetoed, it would give business owners greater standing in court if the signs come under fire. He adds that the founding fathers gave us the right to unfettered exercise of religion and if the signs were forced to come down, it would be unfair. “It’s part of who we are as a people,” Sen. McKoon said. “Some people may want to put signs promoting Atheism if they want to. Some people may want to put up signs up promoting other messages. If it’s their private property and it’s their sign. They have every right to do that.” Senator McKoon says until there is a predictable legal environment, legislation to protect religious beliefs will continue due to hostile actions against people of faith.
In the meantime, the owners know that there may be a day where the signs may come down, but they will stay for now.