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In Virginia, 2 churches feel the aftermath of Trump’s racist rhetoric: NPR

Pastor Earnie Lucas of the Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va. Posted this message on his church sign around the same time President Trump tweeted that four Democratic members of Congress – all of them women of color – should “go back and help mend the crime-infested and places where they came from.”

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Pastor Earnie Lucas of the Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va. Posted this message on his church sign around the same time President Trump tweeted that four Democratic members of Congress – all of them women of color – should “go back and help mend the crime-infested and places where they came from.”

Sarah McCammon / NPR

It is the story of two small churches in Virginia of the same name, but two very different congregations. They each found themselves caught up in a controversy over President Trump racist rhetoric. Sarah McCammon of NPR recently visited both congregations.

Pastor Earnie Lucas said he had received threats of violence and even death since he put up the sign. He also received letters of support, including donations, from across the country.

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Pastor Earnie Lucas said he had received threats of violence and even death since he put up the sign. He also received letters of support, including donations, from across the country.

Sarah McCammon / NPR

A welcome sign on the way to town reads “Historic Appomattox: Where Our Nation Reunited”. But here in Appomattox, where the Civil War ended over 150 years ago, there are still reminders of division.

Not far from there, a sign placed in front of the Baptist Friendship Church reads “AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT”.

Pastor Earnie Lucas said he posted this message on his church board several weeks ago. Around the same time as President Trump tweeted an attack on four Democratic members of Congress – all women of color – saying they should “go back and help mend the totally broken and crime-infested places where they come from.”

Lucas, 85, is white and has been a pastor in this community for decades. He defends his sign and expresses his anger at the response he received online and in the news.

“Don’t tell me about that flag over there, or that signature over there!” he thundered from the top of the pulpit. “This is America! And I love America!”

Lucas asks if anyone in the small all-white congregation is “from Yankee country.” Nobody raises their hand.

“The letters that came from north of the Mason-Dixon line, I’m sorry to say, these people don’t know how to speak,” Lucas said. “You speak in vile, miserable language. And where they told me to go, and how long to stay – they were dirty in their conversation.”

Lucas said he had received threats of violence and even death since he put up the sign. He also received letters of support, including donations, from across the country.

Local media first reported that several members of the congregation had organized a walkout in protest – or for fear of backlash. But last weekend Lucas said most of the regulars had returned.

“I had no malicious intent against anyone – here or in the state of Virginia,” Lucas said. “I was talking about people who came here illegally and want to demolish the place.”

During the service he mentioned the recent mass filming in El Paso, Texas, which left 22 people dead. But later he said he didn’t believe reports that the white shooter was target Latinos. Lucas also said he didn’t believe analyzes suggesting that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than others living in the United States.

Lucas does not consider his words, nor those of the president, as racist.

“I think this idea of ​​racism has been exaggerated,” Lucas said. “Really. We have sorry people, black and white … but I don’t care about that. If a man comes to me and behaves well, we get along fine, I’ll go fight for him, of all ways that I can. “

“I don’t want Muslims in America”

Lucas’s church member Dianne Cook says she agrees with the panel’s message.

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Lucas’s church member Dianne Cook says she agrees with the panel’s message.

Sarah McCammon / NPR

One of Lucas’s church members, Dianne Cook, 69, said she agreed with the post on her church sign and with her pastor. She said Trump was right to criticize the four female Democrats in Congress, including the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

“Where were their parents from? Are they American? Cook asked. “Just because she was born in America doesn’t mean she’s American.”

” Is not it ? ” I asked. “Isn’t that legally, however, under the Constitution? “

“Under the Constitution, yes,” Cook admitted, then paused. “But I don’t know how to put it, to make you understand that I wish him, I wish them, well – I don’t want Muslims in America.”

“We are not this church”

Norwood Carson, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Hopewell, Va., And his team have responded to calls from people angry at the sign. They say to the callers, “We are not that church that says, ‘America love her or leave her.’ ”

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Norwood Carson, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Hopewell, Va., And his team have responded to calls from people angry at the sign. They say to the callers, “We are not that church that says, ‘America love her or leave her.’ “

Sarah McCammon / NPR

A two hour drive away in Hopewell, Va. Is another Baptist Friendship Church. The congregation is predominantly black and the members experience this time very differently from the Baptist friendship congregations in Appomattox.

Sitting in his church office, Pastor Norwood Carson said his secretary had received angry calls from people confused about their names.

“We gave a standard response to each of them,” Carson said. “‘You call the Hopewell Friendship Baptist Church. The church that loves God, loves others, and serves the community. We’re not that church that says,’ America love her or leave her. . ‘ “

Carson, 59, said the meaning of this sign is clear. “Obviously this is a racist statement,” he said. “But finding out it was from a church really took me for a loop.”

Carson said he would like to speak with Pastor Lucas of Friendship Baptist in Appomattox, and try to better understand what prompted this sign. Lucas said he was open to a conversation.

Elaine Thomas is a longtime member of the Baptist Friendship Church in Hopewell, Virginia. She says she and her husband had no idea that they would have to worry about their family being exposed to the kinds of things they saw and heard during the civil rights era.

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Elaine Thomas is a longtime member of the Baptist Friendship Church in Hopewell, Virginia. She says she and her husband had no idea that they would have to worry about their family being exposed to the kinds of things they saw and heard during the civil rights era.

Sarah McCammon / NPR

“It’s not who we are”

Elaine Thomas, 70, is a long-time member of the Hopewell Friendship Baptist Church. She was a teenage girl growing up outside of Richmond, Virginia, during the height of the civil rights movement.

“My husband and I were looking forward to [having] peace, security, watching our grandchildren grow up – now our great grandchildren, ”said Thomas. “And we had no idea we needed to start worrying that they would be exposed to the types of things we saw and heard when we were young.”

Thomas said President Trump was responsible for stoking new racism in America.

“It’s not who we are,” Thomas said. “Maybe that’s how we were at one point.… But that’s not what we are right now. We went too far to turn around and go back, and we didn’t. will not be going back. “


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