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'Pray for Obama' sign stirs controversy

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Aug. 29, 2012 at 3:29 a.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.

A controversial sign on North Navarro and Stanly Streets refers to Psalm 109:8, which reads, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership." Subsequent verses call for the destruction of the leader and his family. The sign was purchased by Milton H. Neitsch Jr., of Victoria.

A controversial sign on North Navarro and Stanly Streets refers to Psalm 109:8, which reads, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership." Subsequent verses call for the destruction of the leader and his family. The sign was purchased by Milton H. Neitsch Jr., of Victoria.   Todd Krainin for The Victoria Advocate

A sign erected on North Navarro Street asking drivers-by to "Pray for Obama" is stirring controversy in the Crossroads.

The sign, at the corner of North Navarro and Stanly Streets next to Car West Car Wash and Uncle Mutt's Bar-B-Q, references a seemingly kind suggestion to pray for the nation's president.

But below a pair of hands folded in prayer, Psalms 109:8 is stripped across the bottom.

"When I first saw the sign, I thought, 'Oh good, we should pray for our leaders' ... but when I got out my Bible and looked up the verse, I realized the verse was calling for the death of a leader who the writer (King David, of Israel) believes is evil," said the Rev. Amy Danchik, of Christ the Victor Lutheran Church, located on the same street.

Psalms 109:8, which reads, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership," provoked Danchik to petition area clergy for the removal of the sign, citing its inflammatory implication that Obama should die.

On its own, Danchik said Psalm 109:8 is "bad enough," but the verses immediately following secure the tone of the "Pray for Obama" sign.

Psalm 109:9-10 reads, "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes."

"When I read the entire Psalm, which I believe you have to do to get the full context of each verse, I realized the meaning of this sign isn't Christianity as I know it. God calls us to pray for our enemies, not their deaths," Danchik said. "It's the wrong message for Jesus followers."

The sign was purchased and erected by Milton H. Neitsch Jr., of Victoria, who owns the properties where Uncle Mutt's and the car wash are located.

Neitsch, who said the two businesses located on his properties are not responsible for or affiliated with the sign, said he did not intend for the billboard to be controversial.

"I did not mean to imply what's in those other verses, only Psalm 109:8," Neitsch said. "The country is losing its Christianity and that sign was put up in good faith to support the prayer for Obama, even though I don't support his policies."

Neitsch said the sign was purchased online and paid for by several supporters of its message. He said he received only one complaint since the sign went up a week ago, and everyone else has praised the billboard.

"I believe in God and I believe there's still time for this country, but I believe we can't put up with what we've had the last four years," he said. "I only support what's written in Psalm 109:8, which says 'Let his days be few.' Obama happens to have 69 days left and when he's gone someone else will take his place."

But Danchik said the act of removing one verse from the entire passage, known as "prooftexting," is an insufficient method of reading scripture and may promote an incorrect message of Christianity.

"The world already sees a hateful form of Christianity, and this is one of the reasons - this billboard," she said.

Jared Mayfield, the city of Victoria's director of development services, said no regulation or ordinance would require Neitsch to remove the sign from his property.

"If it's on his property and it's legal, he can change the message on the billboard," Mayfield said. "The city doesn't have any regulations or sign ordinance that would address the content of the sign."

Victoria resident David Allen, who was not immediately aware of the message of the sign, said he does not support Neitsch's billboard.

"I don't think it should be up there. For him to say that a person should die, that's not right. Obama shouldn't be president, but he doesn't need to die," Allen said.

Yet another Victoria resident, Gabby Herrera, said while she doesn't support the message of the sign, she supports Neitsch's right to post it on his property.

"Yes, it's in a public place, but it's on his property," she said. "I'm not saying I'm for or against Obama," but Neitsch has the right to express his opinion.

Danchik has launched a community-wide effort to remove the sign and is circulating a petition among clergy and Victoria residents requesting it be taken down.

"This is not about bashing the man who put it up. I have no hatred for him, and I'm speaking the truth in love," Danchik said. "But I'm holding him accountable to scripture. I'd like to see it taken down for the sake of the gospel."

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