The First Baptist Church of University Park didn't mince words when it came to expressing its outrage over the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Earlier this week, the electronic sign for the Chicago-area church featured the following message: "It is safe to kill black people in Amerikkka."
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The play on the spelling of America is, of course, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, a move the church explained in a post on its Facebook page:
The use of “kkk”, was done to call attention to the fact that, just as in the “glory days” of the KKK, it appears far too often that the murder of African Americans is permitted, and the mistreatment of African Americans historically and currently is far too cavalierly considered. Issues such as the Prison industrial complex, heath disparities, underfunded and under-resourced educational systems, and voter protection are just a few of the concerns faced daily by African Americans. Add to this the fact that an unarmed teenager in Sanford, FL can be murdered in cold blood for simply walking home, and you will know the deep sense of concern that African Americans live with daily.
The Facebook post goes on to explain that the message is also a reference to a marquee that Reverend Vernon Johns of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., put up in 1949. That sign read, "It is Safe to Kill Negroes In Montgomery," and was posted after a white man shot a black man and was not punished.
Despite the First Baptist Church of University Park's rationale for posting its message, the sign apparently prompted enough negative reactions on social media that the church altered the message on Tuesday to read, "Is it safe to kill blacks in America?"
First Baptist isn't the only church speaking out against the Zimmerman verdict through a powerful marquee. In Alabama, Pastor Michael R. Jordan of the New Era Baptist Church posted a sign outside his church that said said bluntly, "George Zimmerman Jury Supported White Racism."
Jordan previously told The Huffington Post that he hoped other churches would join in and post signs of their own denouncing racism. "To acquiesce means to consent by silence," he said.
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