The city council in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was in a bit of a pickle.
The city was in the middle of a growth spurt and needed high ground to build a one-million gallon water tower.
But the property they needed was owned by the First Baptist Church. So they made a deal with Pastor Nick Garland and the congregation.
“We donated the land and the easements for the tower,” Pastor Garland told me. “In kind, they said they would paint our name on the water tower.”
It was a fair trade – all on the up and up.
“Our people are very generous,” he said, referring to his congregation. “We want to be good citizens as well as good Christian folks representing the kingdom of God.”
And Baptists are mighty partial to water.
“We’re in the business of talking about Living Water and this (deal) provided water for a community and water for our church and water for a whole new area of the city to develop,” the pastor said.
But it turns out – a gaggle of perpetually offended atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers from Wisconsin took issue with the deal.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a sinister letter to the city – warning that the inclusion of the church’s name on the water tower violates federal law.
“At some point that name is going to have to come off the water tower,” attorney Andrew Seidel told television station KTUL. “The water tower is in fact, government owned, and on government land. And as such, it can’t be advertising for any religion.”
Seidel accused the city of promoting the Baptist religion.
“The Supreme Court has spoken very clearly on this, and it has said the government can’t promote one religion or church over another, or religion over non-religion,” he told the television station.
Well, the good people of Broken Arrow don’t appreciate a bunch of out-of-town atheists causing trouble. And the city’s attorney politely told the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the church’s name is going to stay on the water tower.
“It wasn’t intended to endorse any sort of religion; it was simply to recognize them for the land contribution. It was a contract,” City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening told television station KOTV.
Pastor Garland told me the church is grateful for the way the city has handled the controversy.
“They stood up for us – against the Freedom From Religion Foundation,” he said. “They have been very gracious to us.”
Lord knows those silly atheists don’t have the good sense God gave a goose.
They probably think the city’s tap water has turned into holy water since the tower is on church property.
“Buddy, if it did, we’d have a lot of conversions down in the valley. I’m telling ya,” the good-natured parson said with a chuckle.
Nor is the tower filled with Communion wine. That wouldn’t be appropriate for a Baptist church. We take our Communion before fermentation sets in – preferably Welch’s.
The pastor assured me the city’s tower is filled with old-fashioned tap water – nothing more, nothing less.
“It’s just plain water in a tower that has [the word] Baptist on the side of it,” Pastor Garland said.
And the water tower has unintentionally given First Baptist Church bragging rights in the Sooner State.
“We claim it’s the largest baptistery in the state,” the pastor said with a great big grin.
That’s a joke, Mr. Seidel. Tell your attorneys to stand down. It’s only a joke.