A University Park church is under fire after a controversial message was programmed onto its outdoor LED sign this week.
After the verdict was released on the George Zimmerman trial, First Baptist Church of University Park's sign read "It is safe to kill black people in Amerikkka."
After receiving heated feeback from the community, the church took to its Facebook page to explain the intention of the sign:
"This is a sign of the times! Thank you for all of your impassioned responses. Now that we have your attention, I pray that you will openly consider this response!
"In 1949 Rev. Vernon Johns, the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama (and predecessor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) put on the marquis in front of Dexter Avenue "It is Safe to Kill Negroes In Montgomery". He did this after a Black man was shot by a White man and received no punishment for the crime of murder. He placed this message on his marquis to call attention to what many Black people felt during that time—that in America the lives of Black people are treated with short worth by the dominant culture, systems, and institutions. It is interesting, yet unfortunate, that 64 years later, many Black people feel the exact same—In America, the lives of Black people are treated with short worth by the dominant culture, systems, and institutions. In no uncertain terms, Black life is undervalued in our society!
"It is this feeling that has resonated through African American communities for years, but especially over the past weekend when the verdict came down in the case involving the murder of Trayvon Martin. It is this feeling, and recognition of this reality that informed the placement of the message on the marquis of First Baptist Church of University Park."