Lexington church responds to non-believers with new billboard

ctruman@herald-leader.comNovember 7, 2012 

Lafayette Church of the Nazarene leased this sign on New Circle Road as a response to an atheist group's billboard that was up last month and said: "Don't believe in God? Join the club." Pastor Jared Henry said the church has gotten "almost exclusively positive feedback."

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The battle of Lexington's religion-themed billboards rages on.

Lafayette Church of the Nazarene has leased a billboard on New Circle Road that is a response to another billboard that was up nearby in September and October, according to a church official.

The earlier billboard said: "Don't believe in God? Join the club." The church's billboard says: "We believe in God. Join the right club. John 3:16."

In the New International Version translation of the Bible, John 3:16 reads: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

The church's billboard is on New Circle between Nicholasville and Harrodsburg roads.

Pastor Jared Henry of the church, at 264 Lafayette Parkway, said the church has received "almost exclusively positive feedback" for its billboard. The church's name appears in a corner of the billboard.

"We wanted the message more than we wanted recognition," Henry said.

The Bluegrass Coalition of Reason, a regional group affiliated with the United Coalition of Reason in Washington, displayed the non-believers' billboard. It was aimed at letting the religiously uninterested, unaffiliated and skeptical know that they are part of a large group, said Clay Maney, a member of the Humanist Forum of Central Kentucky. A non-believers convention was held at the University of Kentucky on Oct. 6. That billboard came down in mid-October.

Maney said the new billboard ensures continued attention "for something that is not even up anymore," for which he is grateful. But he doesn't have a great deal of enthusiasm for the new billboard's message.

"The new billboard comes across as judgment when ours did not," Maney said. "We're trying to be welcoming, while they're trying to be judgmental."

The church's billboard will be up for a month. Henry estimated the cost at $4,000. Initially, the church had put its eventual billboard message on the sign in front of its church.

"That got some attention," Henry said. Church members considered ideas for spreading that message, and the billboard message went up on Monday. The church has put the message on bumper stickers, too.

The Lafayette church, which began in Lexington in 1954, has a membership of more than 160 members, Henry said. He is the church's third pastor in its 58-year history. The church is a Protestant Christian church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, tracing its roots to 1908, and it is an offshoot of British Methodism.

The Lafayette church billboard will be the third controversial billboard about religion in Fayette County in the past six months. A billboard message denouncing homosexuality and abortion sponsored by the Bluegrass Church of Christ in Scott County appeared and disappeared within a week in late May from New Circle Road near Leestown Road.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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