The backlash was swift after the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked a city in Texas to remove two signs that include the phrase "God's country," prompting the mayor to respond on Tuesday, "No way in hell."
The signs appear on Highway 90 in Hondo, Texas, about 40 miles west of San Antonio. They read, "Welcome -- This is God's country; please don’t drive through it like hell -- Hondo, Texas."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent its request in an email to the city last week, Fox 29 reported. It warned Hondo the city would be "legally vulnerable," but did not specify whether it would file a lawsuit. Two unidentified Texans had complained about the signs, according to the foundation.
"It is inappropriate for the city of Hondo to display religious signs that convey government preference for religion over non religion," part of the letter from co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor reads. "Imagine the public outrage had the city posted a sign saying 'This is Vishnu's country."
Hondo mayor Jim Danner said his city was preparing a response, but he could sum it up briefly: "There's no way in hell that sign is coming down."
The city had changed the signs before, Fox 29 reported. Workers added "please" in 2012.
Local news stations asked people in Hondo for their reactions, and nearly all supported the signs. "If you don't like it, don't read it or drive around," Stacey Cross told KSAT.
Foundation co-president Dan Barker said he was open to discussing the issue. "It would be best if they just removed it, but the compromise could be, 'Drive safely. This is beautiful country.'"