By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina
WAYNESVILLE – When Barberville Baptist Church pastor Jack Holland decided to take a stand against liquor-by-the-drink, he expected to do battle with alcohol proponents. What he didn’t expect is to have to fight city hall just to be able to share his point of view.
But that’s exactly what happened when Holland, at the request of former Barberville pastor Johnny Foster, put a demolished car and a sign saying “Alcohol kills – Vote no” on display on the back of a trailer on church property. The wrecked car had belonged to Foster’s wife, Linda, who was killed by a drunken driver in a head-on collision last year.
On April 14, Waynesville town officials ordered Holland to remove the display, deeming the banner a “political sign” and saying it violated sign rules. He suspects they simply resented the display’s effectiveness.
“They didn’t like the idea that the car was out there, because it changed people’s minds about how they are going to vote,” said Holland referring to the May 6 liquor-by-the-drink referendum. He said he had talked to social drinkers who said they had planned to support the referendum, but after coming by Barberville and seeing the car, decided to vote against it.
Town administrators say political signs can be no greater than 6 square feet.
Holland, who took down the banner and moved the trailer to the back of the church property, points out that the sign isn’t political. It doesn’t endorse any candidate, but rather addresses a social issue – something the church has a right to do.
“How does a social referendum like liquor by the drink become a political issue?” Holland said. “They just used the car to make it a weapon of warfare between the church and the town. But I don’t want to get into a battle with town officials.”
Holland and other alcohol opponents have joined to form a group called ASK (Addictive Substances Kill) and have registered with the state as a referendum committee.
While the town issued the order for the ASK display to come down, Holland said there are more than a few political candidate signs clearly in the highway right of way and in obvious violation of the sign ordinance, but apparently not being moved.
“I’ve said all along, this is not about the law, but politics,” Holland said. “They come down and attack our church and let others put up what they want.”
The sign issue notwithstanding, ASK is moving ahead with its work. The group held an informational rally in front of a local furniture store passing out statistical information about alcohol and has a prayer rally slated for May 3 at 11 a.m. at the courthouse.
Meanwhile, even though the wrecked car is no longer next to the street and the Rev. Foster’s banner has been tucked away, Holland said people still drive into the church parking lot to get a look at the vehicle.
He just hopes those opposed to liquor by the drink will take their resolve to the voting booth May 6.