Wednesday update by C.E. Adams

Although Pastor E.W. Lucas at Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox County said that the "America: Love Or Leave It" sign message was put up three to four weeks ago, a letter provided to the Times Virginian and dated Sunday from Lucas stated: “I recently heard our president defending our flag and country against an ungodly attack by some women who without a doubt, hate our country and everything it stands for. I therefore put the message on our sign in front of Friendship Baptist Church.”

It’s unclear whether he was referring to the first time the message was put up or the second time after a member of the church removed it and the pastor put the message back up.

In his letter, he went on to say: “I had no idea that anyone would get offended over the truth being aired. Several of our members were outraged and proceeded to stir up the rest of the people, and all but seven or eight left the church this past Sunday between Sunday School and the morning worship hour.”

Also in the letter, he said: “I will close with this statement: If anyone reads this article and is looking for a church where the pastor will preach whatever is on his heart without fear or compromise, you will be welcome to visit with us. For pastors around the country, unless you have the skin of an alligator, I would suggest you stay out of the battle.”

Lucas also spoke to the Times Virginian in detail about the controversy in an interview Monday. To read more about what he had to say, we have an extensive report in this week's issue of the Times Virginian newspaper out now. Pick up a copy or subscribe at http://www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services/ to view the full article in the e-edition version.

Monday update by C.E. Adams:

Pastor E.W. Lucas at Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox County said today that the "America: Love Or Leave It" sign message was put up several weeks ago, long before President Donald Trump made controversial remarks that were similar.

Lucas said he was unaware of other uses for the sign's message that has been made in the past. He compared the saying to people who go to a restaurant but don't like the food; if they don't like the food, they leave.

The sign was removed by a church member as well as the church Facebook page by Thursday without the pastor's knowledge due to an alleged threat on the pastor's life and on the Facebook page as well as an alleged threat that someone will burn the church down.

He said that possibly due to the threat of someone burning the church, there were only about 10 people in attendance at the morning service, down from about 35-40 members. Lucas said that reaction to the sign he has heard from the Appomattox County community has mostly been positive.

The church's phone has been disconnected for months as a financial decision.

More on this story will be in the Wednesday, July 24, issue of the Times Virginian newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at http://www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services/ to view the full article in the e-edition version.

Sunday update by C.E. Adams:

The sign message at Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox County is back up to say "America: Love It Or Leave It."

The Times Virginian was able to contact pastor E.W. Lucas today after one of the church services, but he was not available to speak on the matter today due to a prior commitment.

An interview was scheduled to discuss the aftermath of the sign controversy, whether or not the sign was vandalized, and to clarify his position and whether there are any possible misconceptions.

An update to this story will be in the Wednesday, July 24, issue of the Times Virginian newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at http://www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services/ to view the full article in the e-edition version.

Original:

The "America: Love Or Leave It" sign that sparked a national controversy has now been removed from Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox County. 

What began as a local discussion quickly blended into the fabric of the national debate over a series of Twitter posts by President Donald Trump on Monday regarding certain members of the U.S. Congress whom he believes are attempting to undermine the founding principals of the United States. 

The Appomattox church put up the sign not long after (correction: allegedly before) President Trump made the following post on his Twitter account: "We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country...."

That Twitter post was in response to backlash President Trump received after his original tweet, which reads as follows: 

"So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly ....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how....it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"

Many people interpreted the comments as having racist overtones, a claim President Trump has denied. 

President Trump's Twitter comments are widely believed to have been made in reference to Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.  

Attempts by the Times Virginian to contact the church pastor, E.W. Lucas, for comment via the church telephone and Facebook page before it went offline were unsuccessful as of this report. Therefore, the reason for the sign removal has not yet been confirmed to the Times Virginian. 

In addition to removing the lettering on the sign, the church's Facebook page is now offline. People from across the country had commented on the Facebook page, some defending the signage and its message, and others expressing their strong disapproval. 

For more information, see the July 24 edition of the Times Virginian.