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Last week, the pastor at the awkwardly named Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Virginia made national headlines when the media noticed the sign outside his building: “America: Love or Leave It.”

While he said it had gone up weeks earlier, the words echoed the racism of Donald Trump — and the complicity of the Republican Party — after he told four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their homelands… which, for three of them, was the United States. (The fourth has been in the country longer than Trump’s wife.)

Pastor E.W. Lucas insisted this was all about patriotism, not racism, and that critics of the U.S. should “live in these other countries for a little while.” Though it’s not like conservatives ever went back to their ancestral homes when Barack Obama was president. They had no problem criticizing the country then. The hypocrisy is obvious.

In any case, the gambit appears to have backfired, in large part because Lucas assumed his congregation shared his ignorance and bigotry.

There was no one in the crowd during Sunday’s lone service.

On Sunday, the church was empty for [its] 11 o’clock service.

Lucas says during the Sunday School service, some members of his church led the congregation out of the service in a stance against him.

He says members were upset with the national attention the church received this week.

Another account says there were approximately 10 people in the audience, but even that’s down from the typical 40. Lucas says it’s because there was a threat against the church and not because of the sign. Right. Sure. That’s totally it.

If those church members were responding to the sign by not showing up, good for them. Now they need to go even further by never coming back. Let Lucas rebuild his church on a foundation of hate and see how it goes.

(Better yet, in a state where the GOP holds a 51-49 edge in the State House with elections coming up this November, let’s hope the congregation’s outrage spills over to the entire Republican Party.)

Lucas says they’re mad about the “national attention” but no one’s upset when it’s positive press. The firestorm in this case occurred because Lucas was quoted verbatim. This wasn’t a series of out-of-context hit pieces. This was a Baptist church pulling an old-school Bob Jones and the media pointing it out.

An empty or near-empty church is what Lucas deserves.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.