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NC Churches Spread Message of Love on I-40

The North Carolina Council of Churches quotes scripture on a billboard on Interstate 40 near Statesville. (NC Council of Churches)
The North Carolina Council of Churches quotes scripture on a billboard on Interstate 40 near Statesville. (NC Council of Churches)
June 26, 2017

STATESVILLE, N.C. – A religious debate is taking place along a stretch of one of North Carolina's major interstates. This week, drivers on I-40 near Statesville will notice two billboards - one supporting President Donald Trump's immigration ban on Muslims, and the other with a very different message.

The North Carolina Council of Churches says it purchased a billboard to spread a biblical message that runs counter to the one put up in May by another religious group.

Jennifer Copeland, the executive director of the Council of Churches explains.

"Our message is very simple - 'welcome the stranger, for you were once a stranger,'" she says. "It's straight out of the Bible. Not only welcome the stranger, but God has also given us a reason for welcoming the stranger. And the reason is, you know, 'You were strangers at one time, and I welcomed you.'"

The billboard will be in place for one month, but Copeland says the Council has considered either extending its time there or posting other signs with similar themes around the state. The group behind the anti-Muslim billboard claims to have 600 pastors supporting its position.

The N.C. Council of Churches represents 18 denominations and 1.5 million North Carolinians. Copeland believes its message, quoting scripture from Leviticus, resonates with a majority of people in the state.

"This other group appears to be a few self-anointed leaders," she adds. "The North Carolina Council of Churches represents 6,200 congregations in North Carolina. We're not just one person out here trying to spread a message - we're a lot of people."

Copeland also adds her group hopes people driving by its billboard will be filled with hope and positive feelings - counter to the message of hate on the neighboring billboard.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC