APPOMATTOX, Va. (AP) — Amid a national furor over President Donald Trump's tweet urging four Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to their home countries, a Virginia pastor is gaining attention with a sign at his church saying "America: Love or Leave It."
ABC 13 in Lynchburg reports hundreds of people have expressed support and opposition on social media to the sign outside Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox.
Pastor E.W. Lucas told the station Tuesday that he wanted to make a statement about the political divisions in Washington.
"People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country and everything, they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while," Lucas said.
Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted that four freshmen congresswomen "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe," and urged them to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Trump's jabs targeted the "squad" of female lawmakers who've garnered attention for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump since they joined Congress in January: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
The four Democratic freshmen have portrayed the Republican president as a bully who wants to "vilify" not only immigrants but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and address climate change while Trump's attacks tear at the core of American values.
Lucas' church is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Richmond and near the spot in Virginia where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865.
Lucas told the television station that he plans to leave the message up for a while because of the positive feedback he's received.
"Preachers, by and large, today, are afraid they're gonna hurt somebody's feelings, and when I get in the pulpit, I'm afraid I won't hurt somebody's feelings," Lucas said.
This story corrects wording to say "Love or leave it."
Information from: WSET-TV, http://www.wset.com/